‘My motto is to give the best’

Vinay Kumar… “I am what I am because of my coaches.”-S.S. KUMAR

Touring New Zealand with the India ‘A’ team is not a demotion, insists medium-pacer Vinay Kumar. “New Zealand will be a different experience as I have never been there,” he says. By N. Sudarshan.

For a fast bowler, R. Vinay Kumar’s on-field demeanour is far from intimidating. He is so even off the field. A tad nervous, with the photographer constantly requesting him to strike a relaxed pose, the Indian medium-pacer, who was in Chennai for the Buchi Babu All-India tournament, spoke to Sportstar about his early cricketing days, his idols, his cherished moments and his most recent injury.

Excerpts:

Question: A hamstring injury just before the Sri Lankan tour resulted in you missing the series. You would have been disappointed not to make the team.

Answer: Yes. It was not a big injury, but unfortunately, it happened two days before the camp in Chennai. If it had happened 10 days before, I would have travelled to Sri Lanka. I was on the verge of cementing my place in the ODI team.

Now that you have recovered, you have been selected for the India ‘A’ team’s tour of New Zealand in September-October. How do you view it?

I don’t consider it a demotion. New Zealand will be a different experience as I have never been there. India or India ‘A’, it doesn’t matter. My motto is to give the best. I don’t think I have been completely ignored. I was not part of the team due to injury. I will be back soon.

Looking back at your cricketing journey so far, how and when did it all start?

I was first introduced to cricket when I was in Standard Eight. It was at a summer camp in my hometown Davanagere. The coach at the camp was Mr. Prakash Pawar. He appreciated my bowling and that’s how I started playing. Later on, it was Mr. L. M. Prakash who coached me.

How was the support from your family?

Mine was not a rich family. I come from a lower middle-class family. I am the eldest among three children, which brings more responsibility. My father was an auto driver and it was tough, but the entire family, including my uncle, was very supportive. Credit should go to my coaches. I am what I am because of them.

You broke into the Ranji Trophy squad in 2003-04. How did that happen?

Before that season, I played in the MRF Trophy under Anil Kumble. In a match against IOC, which had the likes of Wasim Jaffer and Zaheer Khan in its ranks, I took four wickets. In the next game against Railways, I took a hat-trick. Later on, an NCA under-19 camp was held and I was asked to play as there were not enough players in the practice games. I took two six-wicket hauls in two games. I got noticed and these performances helped me break into the team.

It wasn’t until 2010 that you made your International debut…

I performed consistently in the Ranji Trophy. In the domestic circuit, you don’t often get to bowl to top batsmen as they are busy playing for India. But IPL changed that. In the three years, from 2008 to 2010, IPL helped me mature faster. It created opportunities for me to bowl against and play with international stars. The performances in the IPL helped me get into the Indian team for the World T20 in 2010.

You were also among the probables this time for the World T20, but you didn’t make the final squad. How does it feel?

I can’t attribute any particular reason as the performance was there. But my time will come.

After three years with Royal Challengers Bangalore in the IPL, was it disappointing to leave the team and move to Kochi?

It’s always disappointing not to play for your home team. But at the end of the day, you need to go out and bowl and do well for the team. It was a good experience playing for Kochi. Mahela (Jayawardene) was my captain, and VVS (Laxman) and Murali (Muttiah Muralitharan) were part of the team as well. It was a great learning experience.

You made your Test debut in Perth against Australia early this year. How do you look at it considering that it wasn’t very spectacular?

It was unfortunate that we lost the match, but I would like to look at the positives. I got Mike Hussey out twice. The first time the decision went against me, but I got him out the very next ball. It was satisfying.

Who is the one player you idolised and looked up to?

My childhood hero was Rahul Dravid. I am proud of the fact that I have played with him in all forms (of the game). The moments I shared while playing with him in Tests, ODIs, IPL, Ranji Trophy and the KSCA League were great.

The performance you cherish the most?

It was when I represented United Cricketers, Davanagere, in the Tumkur Zonal League. In one particular match, I took five wickets off five balls. That remains the performance I cherish the most.

Finally, your attempt to emulate Lasith Malinga’s bowling action. How did that happen?

It was something I developed for the IPL. It was mainly for bowling a dot ball rather than to pick up a wicket because in IPL, a dot ball is a big bonus.