From being someone who was expected to play a back-up role, Vinay Kumar has become a vital cog in the Royal Challengers Bangalore's bowling machine. For the son of an automobile spare parts dealer in the small town of Davanagere, known in Karnataka for its butter dosa and around the world for the quality cotton spun in its mills, it has been a long journey.
Vinay, who was first spotted at a camp for fast bowlers in interior Karnataka, is only 26, but already plays the role of mentor to young fast bowlers in his team, and wears the grizzled look of a Ranji veteran.
“It’s not been easy, coming from a small town and reaching where I am, but I always knew I had the talent,” Vinay told the Hindustan Times.
“There were times when I was performing and still not getting much recognition. I spoke to people like Anil Kumble, Rahul Dravid and they told me to just concentrate on what’s in my hands and not worry about selection. Even taking wickets is not always in your hands. What you can do is train hard and bowl in the right areas.
“The IPL has helped me a lot. Ever since I took Sachin’s wicket in South Africa people recognise me. Things have been different.”
In IPL III, Vinay has seven wickets from 14 overs, a strike rate not bettered even by Muttiah Muralitharan, the current holder of the Purple Cap for most wickets.
“For a captain, it’s great to have a player like Vinay to call upon,” Anil Kumble told the Hindustan Times. “You can ask him to do any job and he'll give you 100% and does not get flustered even if batsmen go after him.”
Vinay, who does not possess express pace or exaggerated swing, has worked out the best method to pick up wickets. He hits the deck hard, maintaining good line and length, rolls his wrist over the ball to bring cutters into play, and cleverly uses the slower ball.
“For a guy who isn’t tall, and is not express, Vinay has a deceptively good bouncer,” explains Kumble. “Add his ability to tonk the ball in the lower order, and the fact that he's a brilliant fielder, and you have a very complete package.”
The strange part is, none of this is especially new. It’s not as though Vinay has come off the streets and taken the IPL by storm. Since he made his debut in 2005, Vinay has picked up more than 200 first-class wickets.
In the last two seasons, he has ended with 46 and 40 Ranji wickets, just one short of the table topper on each occasion. Taking all first-class games into account he has been on top in both seasons.
“It's really unfortunate that despite all his performances he hasn’t got a central contract from the BCCI,” said Kumble.
If the selectors and the Board did not reward Vinay's domestic toil, perhaps they'll sit up and take notice as he lights up the glitziest stage in cricket.