Ready to deliver on the big stage

Vinay Kumar had bagged 46 wickets in the latest Ranji season and it was just a matter of time before the selectors picked him for the ICC World Twenty20 in the West Indies in May, writes K. C. Vijaya Kumar.

When the much-awaited news in Bangalore cricketing circles was breaking on television on March 26, the subject was busy driving away from the city. R. Vinay Kumar's angst was understandable.

The Karnataka seamer has always been on the fringes of selection all these years without getting a look-in at the highest level. Worse was that despite a consistent haul of wickets over six seasons since his first-class debut in 2004, Vinay was not even considered for a central contract.

The despondent seamer once walked up to Rahul Dravid and asked: “What do I lack and what do I have to do to get selected?” Dravid turned around and told Vinay to continue what he is doing and also assured the seamerthat one day he will get his big break.

Vinay soldiered on with his mix of right-arm swing and a big bag oftricks to snare 202 first-class wickets and along with fellow-speedster Abhimanyu Mithun, was instrumental in Karnataka reaching the Ranji final recently.

Vinay, 26, had bagged 46 wickets in the latest Ranji season and it was just a matter of time before the selectors picked him. The big day finally dawned and Vinay, who was driving away in a bid to mask his nerves, heard the news about his selection to the Indian team for the ICC World Twenty20 in the West Indies in May.

“I didn't know how to react though a lot of people have been telling me that I would be selected. I am very happy and my parents are very happy too. I have been consistently doing well this season with 53 wickets from nine matches and then for the Royal Challengers too I did well — he scalped Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag among others — in the run up to the selection. It was all falling in place,” Vinay says.

Vinay's career has been a story of talent and determination tiding past a humble background from the town of Davangere. Son of Ranganath, who rode an autorickshaw for a while to make a living, Vinay did the hard yards and was soon catapulted to the Karnataka Ranji team.

From being in awe of his predecessors such as Javagal Srinath and Venkatesh Prasad to being an able second-fiddle to the perseveringDodda Ganesh, Vinay quickly learnt the tricks of the trade. And once Ganesh ebbed away, Vinay became the natural spearhead of the Karnataka pace attack while left-arm spinner Sunil Joshi lent his weight of experience.

The State team was in transition mode as a flurry of retirements and personnel change meant that a young squad had just Joshi and Thilak Naidu from the impregnable group of the Nineties. Vinay soon emerged as the carrier of hopes though ebullient batsmen like Robin Uthappa and Manish Pandey did light up the horizon.

Initially a predominantly out-swing bowler, Vinay added the in-swinger to his repertoire, tweaked in a good slower delivery, mastered the surprise bouncer and also swung in a medley of cutters to keep batsmen guessing all the time. He never had the express pace of Srinath or his peer Mithun but he had enough ability to keep the batsmen honest.

Rated high by the likes of Anil Kumble, Dravid, Srinath and Prasad, Vinay has the spark to make his own space among the men in blue. “It's a huge opportunity and I just want to concentrate on the job at hand. First of all I would like to thank my first coach Prakash Powar, the former Goa player. He is no more now,”Vinay says. Respected by his peers and carrying a wealth of goodwill, Vinay is now primed to deliver on the big stage. He is living his dream at last.