The script unfolded near-perfectly for Vinay Kumar. The former Indian seamer hit a purple patch by captaining Karnataka to their second consecutive Ranji Trophy crown and also keeping the statisticians busy en route to taking a five-for and slamming an unbeaten century batting at number nine to help his state side pip Tamil Nadu by an innings and 217 runs in the final clash at Mumbai.
Vinay, who had a match haul of seven wickets in the final and scored a fine ton, became the first captain and second player (after Vijay Hazare) to score a century and take five wickets in a Ranji final. Vinay, who became the second Karnataka captain after Erapalli Prasanna to win the Ranji Trophy, twice last played for India against Australia at Bengaluru in November 2013. The 31-year-old Davengere-born cricketer has featured in 31 ODIs so far and played a lone Test against Australia at Perth in January 2012.
Vinay spoke in an exclusive interview.
Q. How does it feel winning back-to-back Ranji Trophy titles under your captaincy?
It feels fantastic to win the Ranji Trophy and that too, twice on the trot. The boys have showed a lot of consistency and it really helped. We have slew of all-rounders in our side who can both bat and ball – we bat deep, even our number eleven batsman can score crucial runs.
Q. Karnataka had won the Ranji Trophy last year beating Maharastra at Uppal and this time around you beat Tamil Nadu at Mumbai. What would you attribute your success to?
Our boys exuded plenty of hunger for success. All the team members kept pushing themselves and raised their performance bar. Collectively we were really good in all departments of the game. Robin Uthappa was consistency-personified, KL Rahul racked up two big hundreds, Manish Pandey also got one big ton, CM Gautam, Shreyas Gopal, Ravikumar Samarth all chipped in when it mattered. Even in the bowling department, (Sreenath) Aravind, (Abhimanyu) Mithun and (Shreyas) Gopal performed really well – all in all it has been a huge team effort.
Q. There is competition for places in the Karnataka side. It must augur well for your side.
It’s good that there is a healthy competition in the side as it keeps everyone on their toes. Every player knows he has to keep performing and it benefited the side immensely.
Q. Karun Nair slammed a magnificent 328 in the final against Tamil Nadu. Your thoughts.
Karun has been through a lean run this season initially, but really dished out a superb knock in the final. He is a talented bloke and I’m sure he will soon make his international debut like KL Rahul did some months against Australia.
Q. Karnataka were in more than a spot of bother at 31 for 4 after bowling Tamil Nadu for a measly first innings score of 134 on day one. Elaborate on the massive stand between Karun Nair and KL Rahul?
We were in the soup at 31/4 with (Ravikumar) Samarth, (Shishir) Bhavane, (Robin) Uthappa and (Manish) Pandey back in the hut. Abhimanyu Mithun scored a breezy 41-ball 39, which eased the early pressure somewhat and the stage was set for the Nair-Rahul combo to orchestrate a memorable match-winning 386 six wicket partnership, which allowed us to bat Tamil Nadu out of the game on day two.
Q. Your are known more as a tailender who did not have great credentials as a batsman, but over the last few years you have worked on your batting.
It’s important to be a handy lower-order batsman across all formats in contemporary cricket. I used to start off my career as a batsman who could ball and when I came to Bengaluru to play cricket, I probably did not realize my batting potential as my bowling took centrestage and remained a bowler who could bat. I think I did not know initially how to get hundreds and easily scored nice forties, fifties and sixties.
Q. Your finished the 2014-15 Ranji season as the joint top wicket-taker alongside Mumbai’s Shardul Thakur with 48 wickets. You became the first cricketer after Vijay Hazare to score a century and take a five-for in a Ranji Trophy. Do you think such a robust performance will help you make a national comeback?
I’m always passionate my about playing for the country and I hope my Ranji performance is watched by the selectors. There is nothing like playing for the country.
Q. Karnataka have won the Ranji trophy for two consecutive seasons. Do you feel that the state cricket is in great health?
Indeed it is. The junior cricket structure in Karnataka is strong and I feel that a lot of talent will come through the ranks. I have no doubts that the state will dominate domestic cricket in the coming years.