The inclusion of Ranganath Vinay Kumar in the Indian squad for the Twenty20 World Cup is much deserved, statistically speaking. But it is also nothing short of seismic, sociologically speaking.
The man hails not from traditional urban cricket centres like Bangalore and Mysore, but the humbler cotton cocoon of Davanagere. It wasn’t on the lush green grounds of some international school that Vinay cut his cricketing teeth, but on the hard outfield of the Mothiveerappa high school grounds.
He wasn’t born with a silver spoon in his mouth, with his mother dropping him off at a coaching class in a fancy car; the servant lugging the kit. Rather, like Vinod Kambli, he was born on the other side of the railway track; his father driving a hired autorickshaw to eke out a living for the family.
And unlike plenty of recent worthies who have been fast-tracked into India’s most coveted club, Vinay has had to strain every sinew in match after match, with bat and ball. There was no “godfather” holding a gun at the heads of the selectors. Despite the bucketful of wickets he had soaked up in the last three seasons, he wasn’t considered good enough for a BCCI contract by the worthies.
But, unlike the benne dose (butter dosa) that his hometown is famous for, all who know him and have dealt with him, have only one thing to say: Vinay is the Rahul Dravid of bowling: gutsy, hard working, tough as nails, never say die and streetsmart. The word impossible has been scratched out of his cricketing lexicon.
And, surely, anybody who remembers a dead coach on the biggest day of his life, has his heart in the right place?
Here’s how sections of the media covered the selection of a true son of the soil.
Cricinfo/ A break that was long overdue: “Vinay’s friend, Harshan, used to tell him, ‘If you get Sachin Tendulakar”s wicket, you will definitely play for India. Whoever has bowled him—S. Sreesanth, Piyush Chawla— has played for India.” Last year, in the IPL in South Africa, Vinay got Tendulkar with a beauty in Port Elizabeth. So Vinay called Harshan, and asked, ‘Okay maga [mate], I have got his wicket, now tell me, I’ll play for India or what?’ Harshan, like the selectors, had an excuse ready. ‘No, I told you to get him bowled.’
“In the third season of the IPL, at the Brabourne Stadium, Tendulkar was in much better form than he was in Port Elizabeth. He was moving across and playing unbelievable flick shots from in front of the stumps. Vinay, though, got one to nip in a touch extra, and hit the exposed leg stump. Harshan texted immediately, ‘Get ready to play for India.’ Six days later, when he was driving to another friend’s place, on a short break from continuous IPL matches, Vinay got the belated call-up.”
The Times of India/ Auto driver’s son rises: ” Having been let loose for a couple of days by the management of his IPL side, the Royal Challengers Bangalore, Vinay chose to go for a long drive in his Santro, mostly in a bid to escape the tension that has always enveloped him and his family whenever the national selectors meet. Had this scene taken place a few years before, he could well have been moving about in an autorickshaw, not the usual hired one but the one driven by his dad Ranganath to keep the family fire burning.”
Hindustan Times/ Happy to see my parents smile: “I had been expecting this for a while and every time I would be disappointed. My parents would ask me why I wasn’t getting selected despite good performances. Sometimes I would tell them that perhaps I wasn’t destined to play for the country…. Now I am happy seeing them happy.
“Maybe God wanted me to work harder and longer…. We weren’t financially strong, and me being the eldest, it was my duty to take care of them. But looking at my interest in the game, they encouraged me to continue playing. They never made me feel guilty about the fact that I wasn’t helping them in running the family.”"
The Hindu/ Vinay has a legacy to live up to: “Indian cricket’s latest heroes are continuing to emerge from the hinterland. Vinay is a fresh example of an iron-willed small-town lad carving his space under the sun.”
Deccan Herald/ Gutsy Vinay gets T20 cut: “The wait, which appeared eternal, is finally over. His State team coach K. Sanath Kumar’s reaction was laced with a tinge of sadness when Abhimanyu Mithun was picked for the first Test against South Africa in February. While he was all happy for Mithun, he was disappointed that the big-hearted Vinay missed out on the opportunity. However, Sanath is a happy man now, with Vinay getting recognised at last.”
DNA/ Bangalore medium pacer pulls a fast one: “The wait is finally over for Indian cricket’s ‘Nobody’s Child’…. It’s been a long journey for the son of an automobile spare parts dealer in the small town of Davangere. Despite taking the highest number of wickets in first class cricket in 2007-08 and 2009-10, Vinay was not considered for a central contract by the BCCI. But he did not lose hope and believed that his day would come.”
Cricinfo/Maybe God wanted me to work harder and longer: “Few people get the chance early, few have to wait. We weren’t financially strong, and me being the eldest, it was my duty to take care of them. But looking at my interest in the game, they encouraged me to continue playing. They never made me feel guilty about the fact that I wasn’t helping them in running the family.”
CricketNext/ Vinay ready to put his best foot forward: “”I am very happy for my son. I am sure he will perform well for the country,” said Soubhagya, his mother. “Though the call has come later than what we had anticipated, I am happy for him. My son is a very hard worker. I am confident that he will make India proud,” said Vinay’s father Ranganath.
The Telegraph/ Vinay thanks selectors: “I would also like to thank my coach Prakash Pawar, who is no more, and L.M. Prakash for recognising my talent and developing me into what I am today. K. Jeswanth and K. Sanath Kumar were also instrumental in shaping my career. I’m grateful to former Karnataka bowler Y.B. Patel. He would say that I will go on to play big cricket and always encouraged me. Even on his deathbed, he told someone to hand over a kit bag to me. I haven’t used it. I treasure it.”
Vijaya Karnataka/ Dil khush: “Whenever the selection committee sat down to pick the team, I would sit in front of the television to see if my brother would be included. I felt proud when he sent titans like Sachin and Saurav Ganguly and Virender Sehwag back to the pavilion. My brother just loves Rahul Dravid. He has his pictures pasted in every corner of our home,” says his sister Vinutha.
Top photograph: courtesy rediff.com
Bottom: Vinay’s mother Soubhagya (right) helps sister Vinutha (centre) stuff doodha pedhas into the mouth of his coach L.M. Prakash in Davanagere on Friday (courtesy Praja Vani)
Also read: A real workhorse from the land of benne dose