It has been a while since India have been struggling to forge a good opening combination ever since the pair of Sehwag and Gambhir lost form. In recent times, India have tried out Shikhar Dhawan and Vijay, and while the former had a spectacular start in India, his form has plummeted swiftly since then. Only a ton in New Zealand has kept his place in the Indian team safe for now. Vijay, his senior opening partner, has accompanied him to the crease for the last few Tests. But, they have failed to give India good starts in the last two overseas series. Dhawan failed at Trent Bridge as well. On a personal level though Vijay would be pleased with his magnificent ton on the opening day of the Test.
The Test was significant for Vijay in more ways than one. This was the opener's first Test ton outside India. Before this, all his hundreds had come in India, mostly on placid tracks. He was part of both the South African as well as the New Zealand tour, but had mixed tours. Vijay got a 97 in South Africa, but it was followed by a few starts which could not be converted. The story was similar in New Zealand. He performed well enough to retain his place for the England tour. The lack of options has also helped his cause, although Gautam Gambhir is part of the current squad.
The England series is important for Vijay since over five Tests he can prove his mettle. Some question marks over his career were answered in South Africa, but the ton at Nottingham will definitely go a long way in quelling question marks over his ability as India's opener away from home. The most impressive aspect of Vijay's ton at Trent Bridge was that he showed great determination and patience during his knock, en route to batting out throughout the day. He left the balls very well, imperative for an opener, and was instrumental in India recovering after a mid-innings collapse.
So far Vijay has had a stop start career, making his debut against Australia in 2008 after one of the regular openers was injured, and since has been in and out of the side. However, with both Gambhir and Sehwag losing their spots over the last couple of years, Vijay has got a fair chance to establish himself. He has delivered mixed performances since. This is why he his spot has been under the scanner. The worry for Vijay going into the last couple of series' has been that he had been getting starts but was failing to convert it.
Vijay is 30 now and not getting any younger, and over the last six years has only featured in 22 Tests. In most of the matches he has played, Vijay has hardly looked in any sort of trouble, but has most often lost his wicket to rash shots. This is precisely why his defiant knock at Nottingham was so refreshing. Time will tell whether it ends up being a career-defining one.
--By A Cricket Analyst