Hanuma Vihari is now India’s 292nd Test cricketer, and he may well go on to have a successful career. His fighting half-century in the first innings at the Oval got admiration from the likes of Sunil Gavaskar and Sourav Ganguly. Hanuma’s childhood coach, Mr. John Manoj, in an exclusive interview with the CrickerSoccer.com, reveals how he went on to score a match-winning 80 the day after his father’s death. Manoj also assures that Hanuma has entered the big league to stay.
Here are the excerpts:
CricketSoccer (CS): Hanuma impressed everyone with his performance in the debut test match at the Oval.
John Manoj (JM): Hanuma has shown that he is there to stay. He has the potential. He is a very hard working guy, very focused about his job. I think this is just the beginning. He will shine in the longer run. The more matches he will play for the country, the more confident he will become.
CS: Can you memorize the time when he came to your Academy at Secunderabad at a very young age?
JM: St John’s Cricket Academy in Secunderabad started in 1987 by former India Test cricketer MV Narsimha Rao. Now I run the Academy. Cricketers like VVS Laxman, former India wicketkeeper and current chief selector MSK Prasad, Tarun Sai Nethula, who migrated to New Zealand and represented the Black Caps in five one-day internationals, Mithali Raj – all are the products of our Academy. The fifth and latest one is Hanuma Vihari. He was 11 when former Hyderabad cricketer and a very good friend of mine, Nagesh Hammond, who used to run his own small academy, brought him to St John’s. He felt his academy was not the place for Vihari to hone his skills. When I saw Hanuma, I was impressed. I gladly took him in. He was very obedient and eager to learn.
CS: What impressed you the most at that time?
JM: His fighting spirit. Hanuma is a fighter. Let me tell you a story. Not long after Vihari joined St John’s Academy, his father passed away. But the very next day, he arrived at the field on time and played the final match of a tournament for his school team. Not only that, he scored 80 runs in that final and won the trophy for his school. The whole episode made him tougher mentally.
CS: At your Academy, he must have spent time with Laxman?
JM: Yes, obviously. He used to sit and watch Laxman bat at the academy every day. Laxman never missed a practice session here under any circumstances, so Vihari had that motivation. He always wanted to play for the country. And not only Laxman, he is encouraged by MSK Prasad also.
CS: Why did he shift his base to Andhra Pradesh from Hyderabad?
JM: Hanuma was very prolific with the bat for Hyderabad, scoring almost five thousand runs across three formats in seven seasons. But he was ignored in the national team. Probably he was looking for a new beginning. His time came when he was selected to play for India Blue in Duleep Trophy. He scored 105 as an opener for India Blue to secure a first-innings lead against India Red. With Rahul Dravid taking complete charge of representative Indian sides, Hanuma was much benefited. From those days itself, Vihari was very hungry to learn. He is not someone who is bothered about selections. Now as he gets the starting, he will give till the end to cement his place in the national squad. You will get to see a lot of his batting in Test arena.