Paidikalva Vijay Kumar, the star pace bowler who called it quits after bowling Andhra to an innings win against Hyderabad last week, has had an incredible journey.
From being a porter to being the leading wicket-taker in Ranji Trophy for his State, the 33-year-old’s rise to stardom in domestic cricket is one of those fairy-tales which could easily inspire youngsters looking for a window of opportunity despite adversity.
“Yes, I still believe I can play cricket for three more years. But, I feel it is time to spend time with my family,” says Vijay, who now heads Andhra’s wicket-takers list with 251 scalps from 72 games, eclipsing K.S. Shahabuddin’s 242 from 75 games.
“Honestly, I never thought I would make it this big when I first bowled barefoot in a friendly match for Babu XI of Paidikalva village against Kadapa XI led comprising seniors in 2004,” recalls the pacer.
Interestingly, his six-wicket haul in that match fetched him six ‘laddus’ as a reward for his spell!
“I was very poor and could not afford to go to a hotel for even a normal breakfast. Not many cricketers would have gone through the kind of grind I had undergone. Those were miserable days but it was just sheer passion for the sport which made me chase my goal.” — P. Vijay Kumar, Andhra
“I owe everything in cricket to Jainulla sir and Khaja Moinuddin sir for their great support. The latter even served lunch every day to me as I was very poor and could not afford to go to a hotel for even a normal breakfast,” he said.
“Not many cricketers would have gone through the kind of grind I had undergone. Those were miserable days but it was just sheer passion for the sport which made me chase my goal - to play for the State,” says Vijay Kumar.
“My first spikes were presented by Madhukar anna (son of former ACA Secretary N. Venkat Rao and India-A cricketer) when I went to play in the ACA inter-zonal cricket tournament in Venkatagiri where the selector M.S. Kumar was also impressed,” he says.
When he made his debut under captain Y. Venugopala Rao, in an away game against Baroda in the 2006-07 season, he left an impact with a two-wicket spell (2/43). In the second match against Karnataka, he returned with a six-wicket haul to cement his place.
“I remember vividly I was MSK anna’s roommate (MSK Prasad, now BCCI senior selection panel chairman). I was thrilled to share the room with an India player. You don’t believe, when I tried to sleep on the floor he chided me and made me take the bed. I never thought such a privilege would beckon me,” Vijay says.
“Well, playing for Deccan Chargers in the IPL was another dream come true. I was a raw bowler then and thanks to the invaluable advice of Laxman Sir and other support staff and senior players I tried to master a few tricks,” the Andhra pacer said.
“My best performance was the 10-wicket haul against Bengal when Abid Ali sir was the coach and that season I finished with 29 wickets. Somehow, I never figured on the radar for national selection,” he says.
“I never played for records as they are not permanent and bound to be broken by someone else. I took pride in helping my team win matches from seemingly hopeless situations,” he says with a sense of pride.
A class eight dropout, Vijay Kumar is currently unemployed, and is hoping to be associated with Andhra cricket as a coach or in any role which could help the team’s cause.
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