It has not been an easy journey for me: Vinay

State skipper recalls tough upbringing

It has not been an easy journey for me: Vinay

 After its iconic ‘Benne dosa,’ cricketer R Vinay Kumar has to be the most famous export from Davangere, a bustling town in the heart of Karnataka.

And quite like the cuisine, which took a while to find its place among menus across the State and even among the Indian diaspora, it has taken years of hard work and sweat for Vinay to reach the stage where he has now.

From a shy, starry-eyed boy to a confident leader of men, Vinay’s transformation over a decade has been extraordinary. He has worn India colours already with a reasonable success, but leading Karnataka to their seventh Ranji Trophy triumph will count as one of his most special moments as a cricketer. 

“It’s a big achievement,” Vinay noted. “This is my 10th year in the Ranji Trophy. The year I made my debut it was in 2004, we lost in the quarters. From then onwards, I’ve wanted to win this title. I felt a great need to taste that success because all my seniors told me that it (winning Ranji) was the ultimate feeling. I’m very lucky to lead a team like this. It’s not that we won because of my captaincy. From the squad to the support staff, everyone did their bit,” he remarked.

Things, however, haven’t come on a platter for the 29-year-old bowler. Coming from a family where financial constraints could have easily stifled his dream of becoming a cricketer, it has taken immense faith and effort on his part to pursue his passion.

“It’s not been an easy journey for me,” said Vinay recalling the tough times at the beginning of his career. “Today I have all the comforts in the world, but looking back I realise how lucky I was to get so much support from my parents. Even to come on one trip to Bangalore, I had to spend Rs 300 just on travel. It was 12-13 years ago and for us it was huge money that would take care of many of our household expenses,” he recalled.

Vinay’s coaches at his home town were of great support to him. His first coach Prakash Pawar, who is no more, would make up for lack of modern facilities that have sprung up during Anil Kumble regime now.

While Pawar took care of the cricketing aspect, another coach LM Prakash helped him on the mental side of the game.  “It’s not easy coming to Bangalore and straightaway feel at home. The first word you hear from kids here is ‘what da, how are you’?

English is Bangalore’s language and that puts you on the back foot because you don’t know how to react to them. But nothing comes easy in life. I put up with all my struggles, whether financial or communicating with people. It helped me that I didn’t worry about anything else. My parents struggled but I was too focussed on my game to think about how they were managing,” he narrated while adding that the job with the Vijay Bank after his inclusion in the Ranji team helped him reduce the burden on his parents.            

Vinay remembers two of his performances that changed his fortunes. It was in 2002 when he was summoned to join a practice match for under-19 boys at the National Cricket Academy.

The 16 trainees were divided in to two groups with some Karnataka players making up the required number of 22 players. He came in the hope of playing but was not included in the playing 11 of either side. To his luck, Orissa paceman Deepak Mangaraj got injured and Vinay got his chance.

“I took six wickets in that match and the two-day match got over in one day. So, they had another match the next day and I took another six wickets, including five wickets in a row spread over two overs, and that performance got everyone’s attention,” he pointed out.

This show earned him a place in a team led by Anil Kumble in the KSCA Diamond Jubilee tournament. “In the first match against IOC, I claimed four wickets and then against Railways, I took a hat-trick (Kulmani Parida, S Saxena and Yere Goud) and all were bowled. This helped me get a Ranji berth in 2003 though I didn’t play any match then. But next season (2004-05), I got to play from the first match,” he said and he could have well added ‘the rest is history.’   
 
From someone who found it difficult to string together a sentence during press meets, Vinay has grown to be comfortable in front of camera. He drives a fancy car, lives in a plush house and is married to Delhi girl Richa. He met her through a common friend during an IPL game and believes she has brought the lady luck to him.        

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