Heard of Hanuma Vihari? 

The 24-year-old cricketer was a largely unknown commodity. Till August 23, 2018. When he was selected to the Indian squad for Tests in England.  

Vihari was a surprise inclusion in the Indian squad for the fourth and fifth Tests of the series, and he is the first Andhra Pradesh cricketer to selected in the Test squad since the current chief selector, MSK Prasad in 1999. Coincidentally, he has been selected by the panel headed by Prasad himself.

What made him earn his place in the Indian team, that too in the Test squad — a dream for any cricketer? 

Vihari has been putting up strong performances in domestic cricket consistently.   

He impressed on his first-class debut, in a Ranji Trophy game in Hyderabad, back in 2010, when he was just 17-years-old.

Two years later, he bagged a place in India's Under-19 squad for the World Cup in Australia. The Unmukt Chand-led side went on to win the trophy, but Vihari did not have the best of outings, scoring a mere 71 runs in six innings with an average as poor as 11.83.

Soon after this, Vihari made his Indian Premier League (IPL) debut in 2013, representing Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH). After playing 17 games during his debut season, he was dropped on account of having scored just 241 runs at 17.21 with an unimpressive strike rate, before he was bought back by SRH in 2015. However, he has not played a single IPL game since.

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But then, the troughs in life are essential before one advances towards the crests. 

During his debut season in the IPL, Vihari received some motivating words from Sri Lankan great Kumar Sangakkara. “You (Vihari) are the best young player I have seen in many years," Sangakkara said. 

Vihari has scored 280 runs in 22 IPL games that he has played across two seasons (2013 and 2015). However, the record that would really be proud of is taking the wicket of Chris Gayle. 

Things turned for the better when he was made the captain of Hyderabad for the 2015-16 season. He led from the front as he made 626 runs at an average of 48.26 that season.  

And then came a big career decision. A little before the 2016-17 season, the right-handed batsman changed his team from Hyderabad to Andhra Pradesh and that brought him handsome rewards. 

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In his first year with Andhra, he scored 688 runs at an average of 57.33 before bettering his tally in the next season. In the last season (2017-18), he made 752 runs at a staggering average of 94. Vihari has himself acknowledged that his move to Andhra was a massive one in terms of his career.

However, in cruel twist of fate, Vihari was overlooked at the IPL auction this year and went unsold despite being in stupendous form.

Vihari, though, took it in his stride and kept on accumulating runs in the domestic circuit.  

Not only that, he performed really well for India A as well, both on tour and at home. His performance in England last month was excellent and he continued the form against South Africa A later at home. In his past 11 innings for India A, he amassed 612 runs at an average of 55.63 with three fifties and two big hundreds. He has been dismissed in single-digits only twice in these 11 innings.

All of this has led him to be included in a very elite list. He is placed ninth on the list of players with the highest first-class averages. He has a first-class average of 59.45 which is better than that of Steve Smith and Virat Kohli. Overall, he has scored 5,142 runs in 63 first-class games, with 15 hundreds and 24 fifties so far.

The Andhra batsman has also played some cricket in England, apart from the India A tour earlier in June. He played two full seasons for Hutton CC in the Shepherd Neame Essex First Division League and scored six hundreds during his stint. 

Vihari has got his due reward with the Test selection!