Vinay, a working class hero

Vinay, a working class hero

Pacer has used his tricks nicely against England

Vinay, a working class hero

In the absence of Zaheer Khan, R Vinay Kumar has showed immense maturity to lead India’s pace attack against England. AFP

On a surface where the margin for error was very limited, the earnest Ranganath Vinay Kumar towered head and shoulders above the rest of the bowlers on both sides, career-best figures of four for 30 just reward for diligence and sincere work ethics.

Vinay will perhaps only remain one of the foot soldiers for the duration of his international career. His persona is endearing but not awe-inspiring, his bowling clinical but not intimidating. He will not so much blast batsmen out as out-think and outwit them; the 27-year-old can leave egos bruised, but he won’t often threaten limb or head.

The plaudits always go the way of the flamboyant even as men like Vinay go about their business quietly, and without fuss. Monday’s outstanding effort couldn’t have come at a better time, both from his own perspective and that of the team’s.

Seven previous one-day internationals had netted him a frugal five wickets at an economy well in excess of six runs per over. It didn’t help that his appearances were sporadic and well spaced out, but at the end of the day, you are judged by the numbers that stack up against your name.

If the Karnataka skipper was feeling the heat, he sure didn’t show it. Vinay’s greatest assets are his positivity and immense self-belief, traits that have helped him spearhead the Karnataka bowling with great success for a fair few years now. He fell back on those time-tested virtues again at the Kotla, producing two intelligent spells marked by craft rather than speed, as he undermined the English batting on a reasonably good batting strip.

“He bowled well, he put the ball in the right areas,” England skipper Alastair Cook remarked. “It was very simple stuff and he did it well, it’s just a matter of sticking to the basics.” Given that, unlike a Umesh Yadav or a Varun Aaron, raw pace is not his strength, Vinay relies heavily on variations. He has a beautiful natural awayswinger, to which he has also added the inswinger. He can bowl a well disguised slower delivery, has a nice slower bouncer, can occasionally surprise batsmen with a sudden surge of pace and bounce as Kevin Pietersen found out in Hyderabad, and very sparingly employs a Malinga-esque slinging delivery style that can, and has, caught batsmen unawares.

More than anything else, he is a game trier, no matter what the stage, what the situation of the game or the quality of the opposition might be. He may perhaps never be the spearhead of the Indian attack like he is for Karnataka, but his onus on doing the basics right will ensure that he will be a consistent package who will, from time to time, perform something special. It’s no exaggeration to suggest that what Zaheer Khan is to the Indian team, Vinay is to Karnataka. He has taken the likes of Abhimanyu Mithun and S Arvind under his wings, enjoying the mentoring process and confident in his own ability not to feel insecure about passing on tips to his less experienced mates. Even in this Indian outfit, he is among the more experienced bowlers at the first-class level, and has spent plenty of time with the likes of Yadav and Aaron.

It is up to Vinay now to ensure that when the big boys, the likes of Zaheer, Ishant Sharma and Munaf Patel, are fit and available, he is not relegated to the background. There were some fears that his lack of obvious ‘weapons’ might attract punishment on flat surfaces, but on Monday, he went some distance towards correcting that opinion.

One swallow, however, does not a summer make. Vinay will now have to grapple with the burden of expectations, like he has successfully done for his State side, and if his domestic exploits are anything to go by, he will not be bogged down by that.

On another day, under the same set of circumstances, the man of the match award might have been his. That it went to Kohli for his scintillating century goes to show how much of a batsman’s game cricket is. Vinay, though, won’t be complaining; that simply is not in his nature.

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