On April 13, 2011 Paul Valthaty unleashed an array of spectacular shots to confound defending champions Chennai Super Kings. His unbeaten 120 off 63 balls was once-in-a-lifetime innings and spoke volumes about Valthaty. Sarang Bhalerao revisits Valthaty’s vintage knock.
‘Who is Paul Valthaty?’ was the question many people watching the Indian Premier League (IPL) would have had in their minds. But after his 63-ball foray against the defending champions Chennai Super Kings the entire cricketing world wondered where was this 27-year-old sensation all this while? The search engines were busy retrieving information about Valthaty, who had paved his way from the unheralded greenhorn to a potential superstar.
Valthaty had made a solitary appearance in domestic One Day against Baroda in 2006 and had scored only 16. He was part of India Under-19 team in 2002 alongside Parthiv Patel, Irfan Pathan and Ambati Rayudu. But an untimely eye injury in the World Cup saw him out of action for three years. His journey as a cricketer has had convoluted path.
In the three IPL games upto that point Valthaty has scores of 5, 1 and 6. But still the management backed him. Many pundits believed that Shaun Marsh was being wasted at No. 3 and should open the innings with Adam Gilchrist. But Valthaty made the opening position his own after the stellar performance at Mohali.
Punjab were chasing an imposing 189 runs against Chennai. Valthaty started aggressively. Gilchrist played second fiddle to him. “I loved standing around and watching Paul go today,” said Gilchrist after the match. Valthaty presented an opportunity to Chennai while batting on 10. Albie Morkel floored the chance, and that blemish cost Chennai the game. The opening combination of Valthaty-Gilchrist put on 61 off 5.5 overs.
Chennai leaked a lot of runs in the powerplay overs. Mahendra Singh Dhoni introduced the slow bowlers, and pushed the field back. That did not have any impact on Valthaty. He was playing every possible shot that has found its way in the cricket books. A late-cut past ‘keeper Dhoni was a quite unexpected after his belligerence. But Valthaty was man on a mission.
He has the reputation of being a big hitter in Mumbai cricket circles. The maidan bowlers have suffered on quite a few occasions courtesy of Valthaty’s aggressive approach. It was the turn of Chennai bowlers to suffer. It was nearly international attack comprising Ravichandran Ashwin, Tim Southee, Albie Morkel, Suraj Randiv and Scott Styris. Shahdab Jakati and Suresh Raina were the other bowlers.
Every time Chennai got wicket he counter-attacked making life difficult for Dhoni, who for once wilted under pressure. The good balls were being hit for boundaries while the bad ones were punished as well. By the end of 19 overs, Valthaty had hit 19 boundaries and two sixes. His owner Preity Zinta must have lost a lot of weight because of all the dancing she was doing, while Valthaty was going berserk. It was absolutely surreal seeing the maturity exhibited by Valthaty in rotating the strike and in taking calculated risks.
Punjab needed two to win off the final over. Dinesh Karthik thumped the first ball of the 20th over for a six. But Mumbai’s maidan marauder, Paul Valthaty engineered a fine victory for Punjab. In the post-match ceremony Valthaty said: “It was a belter of a track, and it was a dream come true for me. The team management backed me, and it came off… Getting a 100 meant a lot to me. It was really a belter … I am modest!” “Paul batted really well,” that was all Dhoni said. But in the league of extraordinary cricketers, Valthaty who was “modest” as he described himself played like a King for Kings XI Punjab. Chennai attack was made to look pedestrian. And the national news featured him in prime time. Sadly he is now a forgotten chapter after he had a forgettable IPL 2012. He has so far not featured in IPL 2013.
Brief scores: Chennai Super Kings 188 for 4 (Murali Vijay 74, Subramanian Badrinath 66*) lost to Kings XI Punjab 193 for 4 (Paul Valthaty 120*) by 6 wickets.
(Sarang Bhaleraohails from a family of doctors, but did his engineering. He then dumped a career in IT with Infosys to follow his heart and passion and became a writer with CricketCountry. A voracious reader, Sarang aspires to beat Google with his knowledge of the game! You can follow him on Twitter @bhaleraosarang)