Ranji Trophy 2018-19: Tireless Vinay Kumar set for another milestone

When the Karnataka captain leads his team out against Vidarbha in Nagpur on Monday, he will complete a century of appearances in the Ranji Trophy.

Relentless warrior: R. Vinay Kumar at a practice session at the NCA in Bengaluru.   -  G. P. Sampath Kumar

When R. Vinay Kumar leads Karnataka out against Vidarbha in Nagpur on Monday, he will complete a century of appearances in the Ranji Trophy. It will mark yet another milestone in a career remarkable for its length, success and consistency. Only Sunil Joshi (117) and Brijesh Patel (104) have featured in more Ranji Trophy games for the State team.

Among pace bowlers in the tournament’s history, Vinay already stands alone with a tally of 383 wickets. Nobody in the current Karnataka side comes close to that figure; Abhimanyu Mithun, who is nearest, has 222 Ranji Trophy scalps. For someone who came from humble beginnings in Davanagere, where as a young cricketer he erected the nets, and swept, watered, and rolled the pitch before training, it has been a towering rise.

‘Blessed’

“It's amazing, the way I started playing cricket in Davanagere, then came here and started from the fifth division and moved up. I’m really blessed to be where I am right now,” he said here on Thursday. “When I first arrived here, I definitely felt that I was from a small town. But when I joined the Karnataka side, all the seniors made me feel comfortable. They made me feel like I was one of them.”

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As he heads into his 15th season of first-class cricket, Vinay seems as driven to perform as ever. He has claimed 80 wickets over the last three Ranji Trophy campaigns and does not, he insists, think about his age. “Yesterday, I was saying that I feel 23-24 although I am 34. From the outside, people will look at the age factor but from the inside I’m not feeling it. I always look at James Anderson. He’s 36 but still playing well for England. Ashish Nehra made a comeback to the Indian team when he was 37. If I look at those legends, it’s easy to motivate myself,” he said.

Weakened side

As captain, Vinay has already achieved something unprecedented, leading Karnataka to two trebles of the Ranji Trophy, the Vijay Hazare Trophy and the Irani Trophy in successive years. This season, though, will be a challenge, as he skippers a squad severely weakened by national selection. “In a way it’s a good thing,” said Vinay. “Most of the guys are getting their due and playing for India or India-A. If the youngsters in the State team now perform well, in one or two years they may be playing for the national team — you never know. The coaching staff and I need to make them feel like they belong here; the way I was made to feel when I made my debut.”

It is five years since Vinay last played for India but the desire to play for the country still burns strongly in him. “I still believe I have a chance to make a comeback,” he said. “It’s all about one or two good games. That is what keeps me motivated every day.”

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