Karnataka veteran Vinay Kumar set to join Puducherry as player-mentor

Pacer R. Vinay Kumar on Monday announced that he will be leaving Karnataka after 15 years and join Puducherry as a player-mentor.

R. Vinay Kumar has played 130 first-class matches for Karnataka and took 459 wickets.   -  K. Murali Kumar

Veteran pace bowler R. Vinay Kumar has bid adieu to Karnataka cricket after 15 long years and is all set to move to Puducherry as a player and mentor. The 35-year-old made the announcement at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium here on Monday night, stating that the decision was motivated by a desire to make way for the State's younger players.

"It has been a great journey with Karnataka cricket. It is high time for me to give a chance to youngsters. I remember that Venkatesh Prasad made way for me when I came into the side as a 21-year-old. It is now time for me to do the same. I can definitely play for a few more years for Karnataka looking at my cricket and my fitness, but I'm looking at the bigger picture," he said.

Vinay will be remembered as the man who led Karnataka to successive Ranji Trophy wins in 2013-14 and 2014-15, presiding over a period when the State side also swept the Vijay Hazare Trophy and Irani Cup, establishing itself as the finest in the country.

The man from Davanagere will also go down as one of the best pace bowlers Karnataka has produced, with 459 wickets from 130 first-class matches. He was the most successful seamer of all time in the Ranji Trophy until he was overtaken by Pankaj Singh earlier this year.

Vinay, who made his first-class debut for Karnataka in 2004, played 106 Ranji Trophy games for the State side, behind only Sunil Joshi (117).

"I got an offer from Puducherry a couple of weeks back," Vinay revealed. "J. Arunkumar (former Karnataka and current Puducherry coach) and I have a good rapport. I'm going to miss Karnataka. It's difficult for me to leave the state team. But everything has an end. Puducherry is just one year old. It will be a good challenge,” Kumar said.

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Vinay endured a difficult Ranji Trophy campaign by his own high standards last season, returning only 14 wickets from seven matches. With the likes of Ronit More, Prasidh Krishna, Prateek Jain and Abhimanyu Mithun in contention, it is likely Vinay would have dropped down the selectors' pecking order this time.

Karnataka appeared ready for a changing of the guard last season, with Manish Pandey taking over as captain from Vinay midway through the campaign.

“Last season’s performance wasn’t really a factor,” he said. “The wickets column may not show much but I was a little unfortunate. People may say I’m 35 but I don’t feel that way inside.”

KSCA Secretary R. Sudhakar Rao hailed Vinay's contribution to Karnataka cricket. "We have lost a great player,” he said.

“He gives 200% every time he is on the field, be it his batting, bowling or catching. I didn't expect that he would leave but I felt that he might choose to play only limited-overs cricket. He didn’t want to block the progress of youngsters; that is his greatness.”