Vijay Shankar, the Tamil Nadu all-rounder was handed a debut in the do-or-die clash against Australia in Melbourne. Virat Kohli’s side made three changes for this important clash. With Shankar replacing Mohammed Siraj who had conceded 76 runs and failed to take a wicket in Adelaide, Kedar Jadhav replaced Ambati Rayudu while Yuzvendra Chahal replaced Kuldeep Yadav. For Shankar, this is a chance for him to capitalise and stake a place in the squad for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 as the team’s bowling all-rounder in place of Hardik Pandya, who has been suspended for his ‘outrageous’ comments on the show Koffee With Karan.
For Shankar, it was redemption for two reasons. In 2016, Shankar, who was part of the India A squad for the four-day and List A games against Australia but he suffered a knee injury and was ruled out of the tour. Pandya replaced him and he was fast-tracked into the Indian cricket team. As Pandya made good strides in the national team, Shankar was forced to toil in the domestic circuit. In 2018, Shankar was included in the Indian side for the Nidahas Trophy Twenty20 tri-series involving Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. He did not get a chance to bat in the four matches but he managed win a Man of the Match award in one game.
In the high-voltage final against Bangladesh, Shankar finally got an opportunity to show his skills with the bat. After conceding 48 runs in four overs, the pressure was on him to deliver. The Tamil Nadu right-hander struggled for 15 balls making 12 and India needed 34 off 12 balls. Dinesh Karthik blasted 22 runs in the 19th over bowled by Rubel Hossain and India needed 12 runs in the final over. Shankar managed to get a crucial boundary but he departed for 17 off 19 balls and India needed five runs off the last ball. Karthik sealed the deal in style by hammering a six off the last ball and sealing the title for India in grand style.
“My parents and close friends didn’t say anything as they knew what I was going through. But I get these text messages like ‘don’t worry about what’s being said on social media’, when I want to move on. They perhaps think that’s the way to show sympathy but it may not work,” Shankar told PTI after he was criticised for his knock.
In the series against New Zealand A, Shankar impressed with his performances, hitting 62 and 71 in the two First-Class games in Mount Maunganui and Whangerei. In the three List A games, Shankar’s scores of 71, 59 and 42 in addition to solid performances with the ball, kept him on the selection radar. In the Ranji Trophy, Shankar hit 71 and 51 * against Punjab in Mohali and hit another solid 56 against Punjab in Dharamsala.
With this opportunity, Shankar would be hoping to avoid the pain of 2016 and put in a solid performance in what will be a crucial year for Indian cricket.