Davangere Express comes to a final halt

Davangere Express comes to a final halt

From the humble beginnings in Davangere, R Vinay Kumar’s highly-achieving career has traversed through many locations. From Bulwayo, Brisbane, Chester-le-Street and Kingston in international trips to pretty much most cricketing venues in the country, Vinay, nicknamed the ‘Davangere Express’, has chugged along beautifully through a remarkable and laudable journey. On Thursday, the 37-year-old decided to retire that train.

“I’ve been thinking about it for a while now and I decided it was time to pull the chain,” the former Karnataka speedster told DH. “I’m 37 now and not able to bowl to the level I was doing. It was just getting difficult with every passing day. I’ve been playing this sport for 25 years now. It has been my life. Although I knew the end was near, it’s hard when you have to make the decision. It’s not easy but every beginning has an end. Hopefully, I’m able to continue my journey in some other capacity.”

Karnataka’s cricket is replete with several superstars who have not only made the state but even the county proud. Vinay didn’t have many great moments with the Indian team — he has represented the nation in all three formats — but his performances with Karnataka are mind-boggling and his feats unmatched.

Apart from bagging 397 wickets in 106 Ranji Trophy matches, what anointed Vinay among the league of greats is his brilliant captaincy, leading the Karnataka team. Taking over a young, transitional and aspirational Karnataka side, Vinay led them to an unprecedented double-treble in 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons where they won Ranji Trophy, Vijay Hazare Trophy and Irani Cup back-to-back. No domestic side has achieved this feat so far.

Not only did Vinay lead from the front with exceptional bowling performances — this despite him being dropped from the national side — he also mentored current stars like KL Rahul, Mayank Agarwal, Manish Pandey and Karun Nair. His leadership style is still talked about highly in the Karnataka circles.

“Those two seasons will remain as the jewel in my crown. What a fabulous journey it was. I had a great team at my disposal and everyone was so aspirational. Winning Ranji Trophy itself is difficult, imagine winning it twice and sweeping the other two. We were unbeatable during that phase. It’s the best dressing room that I’ve been a part of. I feel really proud leading that team and I’m so happy that some of them have gone on to become national stars now. Cricket in India is so old, Mumbai were such a dominant force then, smashing everyone before them, but to know that we’ve done something no-one has done it great. I’m getting goosebumps talking about it.”

Vinay’s sole Test match was at Perth in 2012 where he took 1/73 in 13 overs and India lost by an innings and 37 runs to Australia. Vinay’s limited-overs career was also short-lived, his last international game being the ODI against Australia in Bengaluru in Nov 2013.

“I wouldn’t want to call it regret but I feel I wasn’t given enough chances to prove myself. Some of the greats of the game have either had a timid start or gone through a low phase. I’m not pitting myself in that group but I feel I wasn’t given time despite my domestic accomplishments. I may not have been great with white ball but I was good with the red. It hurt me initially but then I learnt to accept the fact that in life you don’t always get everything. If I was part of the Indian side, I may not have achieved so much success with the Karnataka team. People still talk about the Karnataka team that I led, that gives me happiness.

“For a boy with modest upbringings from a cricketing outpost like Davangere (this) is big. I’m content with what I’ve accomplished in my career. No point thinking about what didn’t happen. I was a top performer for RCB (Royal Challengers Bangalore), was able to win IPL titles with KKR (Kolkata Knight Riders) and Mumbai Indians. Tasted so much success in first-class cricket. I couldn’t have asked for a better career. It’s been a long and a memorable ride. I thank the KSCA and everyone who have been a part of it.”

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