Chennai: Vijay Shankar has been hoping for a national call-up for a while now but his elevation in the India Test team came as a surprise to the Tamil Nadu all-rounder.
Shankar, who was seen as a back-up seam bowling all- rounder to Hardik Pandya, was drafted into the Indian Test team in the ongoing series against Sri Lanka as a replacement for Bhuvneshwar Kumar.
"I am really excited (about the call-up). It has been a long-time dream of mine to be part of the Indian team. Now it has come true. My hard work has paid off. I was not expecting it but it feels great," he told PTI on Tuesday from Indore.
"I am looking forward to being part of the Indian dressing room for the first time," he added.
The 26-year-old cricketer, who has played for India 'A' said it has helped him grow as an all-rounder.
"Being part of the India 'A' team has helped me grow as an all-rounder. I have matured as a player and learnt to perform under different situations," he said.
Shankar has been in good form with the bat in the ongoing Ranji Trophy and slammed a hundred against Odisha while also bowling long spells, which he said was good.
"I am happy with my batting form. I have been bowling well too and have bowled long spells. Getting four wickets against Mumbai has given me confidence," he said.
Having overcome a series of injuries, which forced him to miss matches and 'A' tours in the past, Shankar is now looking forward to better times.
The all-rounder, who led Tamil Nadu to triumphs in the Deodhar Trophy and Syed Musthaq Ali Trophy last season, said he had worked hard on his fitness.
"I was frustrated to miss matches, but worked hard on my fitness. Did rehab at the NCA with the physios and trainers there. It has made me stronger," he said.
Shankar, who plays for Sunrisers Hyderabad in the IPL, said working with Tamil Nadu bowling coach L Balaji, a former India cricketer, had enabled him improve his bowling.
"Working with Balaji has helped me improve my bowling and increase my speed," he said.
His family members were delighted to see him earn a call to the Test team and his brother Ajay, who plays in the TNCA League, said Vijay Shankar's hard work and perseverance has paid off.
"We are excited to see him representing the country. Making a debut is a big and a very special time for us. He worked a lot for this," Ajay, a mentor of sorts for his brother, said.
He also said Shankar's determination helped during the tough times when he was injured and missed matches.
"Vijay (Shankar) put in a lot of hard work and his efforts made him return stronger and earn a spot in the 'A' team," Ajay said.