An unsung hero is defined as "a person who makes a substantive yet unrecognised contribution; a person whose bravery is unknown or unacknowledged". If the expression has to be matched with one member of the ODI squad, it has to be R Vinay Kumar.
The Karnataka paceman, who turned 28 on the day of India's victory against Australia in Adelaide on Sunday, has played a pivotal role in lifting the team's performance in the CB Series after a disastrous Test series. It has not only put him atop the wicket-takers' list in the tournament, it has also elevated India to the top of the points table at the halfway stage.Despite Vinay's consistent efforts with the ball in each of India's four league games - both at the start and end of the innings against Australia and Sri Lanka - he has hardly been making news. No wonder, MS Dhoni wasn't asked a single question about him during his 18-minute media interaction after Tuesday’s tied game.
However, Vinay is used to working against the odds, from the start of his cricketing sojourn. His early days were spent trying to keep his cricketing passion alive while his father, an auto rickshaw driver in Davangere, struggled to meet the financial ends of his family.
Vinay then struggled to cement a place in the Karnataka side and then to make an impression on the national selectors. And when the deserved national call-up finally came in 2010, after tireless showing on the domestic circuit for half a dozen years, it was time for a new struggle to prove himself at the top flight.
Despite his forgettable Test debut in Perth last month, Vinay's value in the shorter formats was proven a day before the CB Series began when the Karnataka Ranji captain joined the million-dollar club in the IPL auction, where 'home' team Royal Challengers Bangalore snapped him up. And over the last 10 days, with Zaheer Khan in and out due to niggles, Vinay has proved his worth by leading India's bowling attack.
Barring the game against Sri Lanka in Perth, Vinay has struck with the new ball in every match. The 'Davangere Express' has got rid of Ricky Ponting in both outings against Australia.
In Zaheer's absence, the braveheart has also been mentoring young speed sensation Umesh Yadav, who incidentally made his ODI debut in the same match as Vinay. While Yadav has been in the spotlight, Vinay has soldiered on silently.