It’s the right time to move on: Vinay Kumar on leaving Karnataka

At the age of 35, Vinay Kumar believes that he can still continue playing cricket for the next 2-3 years for Karnataka and that too on merit, but as he moves to Puducherry as a professional for the upcoming domestic season, he knows this is the right time. 

“I don’t want to block the path for any youngster,” Kumar tells CricketCountry a day after he made the announcement. “I felt it was high time youngsters in the team got the chance. The young crop of pacers that Karnataka have right now, I got to play with them last season and realised that they have matured and can hold their own. Ronit More bowled really well in the matches that he played, Prateek Jain got a game, Prasidh Krishna too has matured really well,” he says. 

Kumar made his first class debut in 2004 and leaves Karnataka as their highest wicket-taker in Ranji Trophy among pacers and the captain of team’s golden period from 2013-15, leading them to back-to-back trebles – (Ranji Trophy, Vijay Hazare and Irani Cup), but knows he is leaving the team in the good hands of Abhimanyu Mithun

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“Now it up to Mithun to handle the boys and guide them well. He has been really good and he will do a good job,” Kumar says of his long-time bowling partner. 

But with seniors likes CM Gautam and Stuart Binny too moving on from Karnataka, the domestic heavyweights have big shoes to fill for the upcoming season. However, Kumar is certain that the void will not be felt. 

“Frankly speaking, I do not think there is senior-junior in cricket anyone,” elaborates Kumar, “These boys get so much exposure that they know what they have to do at this level and you are in the team for your performance and nothing else. If you don’t perform, be it a junior or senior, you will be out of the team and personally speaking, if that is the case I will be the first guy to put my hand up and say ‘I am not playing’. I don’t want to be a baggage in the team and if there is somebody waiting for their turn, they should be given a chance.” 

 The Davanagere-born pacer will join Puducherry as a mentor-cum-player and says it’s time to give something back to cricket. 

“First of all, Pondicherry is a new team and I want to be a part of it not just because I want to play. Cricket has given me everything, and I think it is time for me to give back. As I said earlier, if it was about me playing, I could still play for Karnataka. But for me, I would be happy to groom the players in Pondicherry and help the team achieve something good. 

“They are a good team and last year they finished third in Plate group. They failed to qualify because of a few no-results and there must be potential and as a professional I want to help them out.”

Last year, Puducherry had Pankaj Singh as professional, the man who overtook Kumar to be the highest wicket-taker among pacers in Ranji Trophy history. However, as exciting as it will be prospect of seeing the two most successful seamers in Indian domestic history bowling in tandem, Kumar hints otherwise. 

“Honestly, I don’t know if Pankaj will be there this year or not. You are only allowed three professionals in the team, so I can’t say for sure, but if it happens it will be good,” says Kumar. 

What also prompted the move for Kumar was getting back with his long-time coach J Arun Kumar, who took over Puducherry’s coaching duties. 

“JAK being there was one of the reason to choose Puducherry. Our team clicked for Karnataka (in 2013-14 and 2013-15 seasons), so who knows it will click again here for Pondicherry as well and it will be a good challenge for me. I am not going there as somebody who will change cricket there, but as somebody who can learn things from them as well,” he adds.  

Kumar leaves a last legacy in Karnataka cricket with 410 first-class wickets for Karnataka at 22.20 apiece, by far the most for any bowler from the state, and with 21 five-wicket hauls in an innings; 121 at 19.69 in List A cricket; and 54 at 21.70 in T20s. With the bat, he scored 2582 runs at 22.25 for Karnataka, inclusive of two centuries and 12 fifties. From 68 List A matches, he averaged a superb 30.06 with four half-centuries with a best of 82. In 49 T20s for Karnataka, he averaged 17.81 with a best of 38.