Another milestone beckons Vinay

Another milestone beckons Vinay

Karnataka captain R Vinay Kumar (centre) catches up with India opener K L Rahul (right) and paceman Mohammed Shami during during a training session at KSCA (B) ground in Bengaluru on Thursday. DH Photo/ Srikanta Sharma R

As an aspiring young pacer from Davanagere struggling to find his way in the hustle and bustle of Bengaluru almost two decades ago to leading Karnataka to unprecedented success not too long ago, R Vinay Kumar has come a very long way.

Come Monday, when he leads Karnataka for the season-opening Ranji Trophy clash against Vidarbha at Nagpur, he'll be completing a major milestone -- 100 games in the country's premier domestic tournament.  Vinay will become just the third player to have represented the eight-time champions in 100 games after Brijesh Patel (104) and Sunil Joshi (117). 

Sweating it out at the KSCA's B ground on Thursday, Vinay, appearing charged up for another tilt at glory, recollected his journey. "It's amazing, the way I started playing cricket in Davanagere, then came to Bangalore and got my opportunity," Vinay recalled. "(I) started from 5th division, came to 1st division, playing MRF Trophy, then Ranji Trophy. I'm really blessed to be where I am now.

"When you look back, it may feel like a great achievement but at this moment nothing is going to my head because I still want to make a comeback to the national side and perform for the country. Maybe it will sink in once I stop playing cricket but at this moment, I don't look at the achievement the way people see it from the outside."

Vinay, who at 34 is still the State's premier pacer and has constantly stayed above the challengers with consistent performances, said he too had the small town boy apprehensions early on in his career but a friendly dressing room nullified all of that concerns. "I was lucky to play under JAK (J Arun Kumar). He was my first captain. (Karthik) Jeshwanth was coach. I never thought I'd get into the XI in the first game itself. From there, all the seniors, Dodda Ganesh, NC Aiyappa...everybody made me feel comfortable.

"I never felt like I was from Davanagere. They made me feel like I was one of them. People like Thilak Naidu, Sujith Somasundar...all the seniors took care of me. They never made me feel like an outsider. Initially, when I arrived, I definitely felt like I was from a small town. But slowly, I forgot. The IPL also played a very important role in my development. Thanks to the IPL, I started sharing my dressing room with international cricketers. It gave me the confidence that I can also make it at the highest level."

The cramped Ranji Trophy schedule can take a toll on anyone but veteran Vinay felt he can last the distance. "Yesterday I was talking to (logistics manager) Ramesh (Rao) anna and I told him I feel like I'm just 23-24 although I am 34. People on the outside may talk about my age but inside I don't feel old. Body may take more time to recover now but age is just a number for me. I have to be a little smart in the way I bowl. If I do that there won't be any problem.

"It's going to be a hectic season. But I always admire (James) Anderson -- he's 36 but still playing for England and he's performing so well. Same thing with Ashish Nehra, the way he made a comeback to the Indian team when he was 37. If I see them, it's easy to motivate myself. I definitely need to take care of my body. If I can take my recovery and workload properly, I think I can play all the games."