Kerala vice-captain Vishnu Vinod opens up on Ranji preparations

Kerala batsman Vishnu Vinod, who has been recently appointed the team’s vice-captain, is hopeful that his side will shine in the Ranji Trophy after a below-par white-ball performance in the season.

Kerala vice-captain Vishnu Vinod is keen to watch senior pro Sreesanth in the Ranji Trophy.   -  FILE PHOTO/SUDHAKARA JAIN

Kerala’s limited-overs season ended with quarterfinal defeats in the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 Trophy and Vijay Hazare Trophy in 2021.  

Batter Vishnu Vinod, who has been recently appointed the team’s vice-captain, says the team is keen to regroup and make up for the below-par white-ball performance with a fruitful Ranji Trophy campaign.  

Speaking to Sportstar from Kerala’s red-ball camp at the Krishnagiri Stadium in Wayanad, Vishnu shed light on his elevation, the long wait for first-class cricket’s return, and S. Sreesanth’s red-ball comeback.  

Firstly, congratulations on being named the Kerala vice-captain for the Ranji Trophy. How do you look at the added responsibility?  

I am not taking it too much into my head. Not taking in a lot of pressure, but certainly, the responsibility will help me focus and do better for the team.  

The Ranji Trophy has been pushed back due to rising COVID-19 cases. Will this have any impact on the team? 

The guys were turning out well in the sessions that we have had so far here (Wayanad), but after the BCCI announcement, it has been decided that we will leave for our respective homes soon. We will wait for the call from Kerala Cricket Association to regroup and resume training. Until then, each of us will be following our routines from our homes.

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How have been the preparations for the Ranji Trophy, which is being held after almost two years?  

The camp was turning out well. We have a good mix of players on the side now. Seniors like Sreesanth and Sachin Baby are there as well as a good set of juniors. The batters and bowlers have settled into a good start in practice, and we are keeping our hopes up for a fine season. 

How has the pandemic affected the red-ball circuit in Kerala? The team also suffered a poor outing in its last Ranji season before the pandemic… 

The domestic players from the state have nearly been out of red-ball action for close to two years now. We’ve been mostly playing the limited-overs tournaments. But we are professional cricketers, and I don’t think the lack of matches over the last two years could be an excuse while we turn up for the first set of matches. We have enough time to prepare here in Wayanad and we’re confident of performing well. 

You are still young in terms of your first-class career. But do you reckon the 193 not out against Madhya Pradesh in the 2018/19 Ranji season became a defining moment in your career? 

Truly, it was a defining moment in my career. I had played just five Ranji matches before that innings and hadn’t performed well. We were in a desperate spot when I came into bat at number 8. Although we lost the game, it was an unforgettable outing for me, probably the best knock in my life.

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Kerala’s first-class game is yet to match up with its limited-overs standards, despite successes in the 2017/18 and 18-19 seasons. Do you think the focus of the youngsters has shifted towards the white-ball game?  

We only have three tournaments in a season, and I don’t think anyone would want to focus on the white-ball game alone and limit themselves. As for me, I’d like to give more importance to my performances in red-ball cricket rather than 50-over matches and T20s.  

There have been talks about the Kerala monsoons hampering the red-ball game. Do you think the rains that stretch from July to December limit youngsters from playing enough four-day matches? 

I agree that we aren’t playing enough red-ball cricket, as much as we used to do. Tournaments like the Buchi Babu Trophy that used to happen in Chennai during our monsoons are not happening over the last few years. The KCA Trophy which used to be a preparatory tournament for the first-class season has also not happened due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Your thoughts on having neutral venues for domestic games? 

I feel that’s a good move and it should stay that way (beyond the pandemic). Earlier, we have been used to seeing result-oriented pitches being crafted by the home side. As for a neutral venue, the pitches are made in such a manner where there’s a fulfilling output, hoping that the game moves into the fourth day. So that will have the batters in contention and the bowlers, too, will get their reward for good spells.  

Sreesanth is set to make his red-ball return. How has he been bowling? 

Everyone is excited to have him back and see him running in with the ball. Our team hosts a lot of juniors apart from Sachin and Jalaj (Saxena), so most of us haven’t quite experienced him with the red ball. He has been bowling well in the nets, getting a lot of movement and swing. He played last year for us in the white-ball season, and we know how much the ball would swing there. So, we’re all eager to see how he will fare in a competitive game with the red ball. 

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