Hard work and skill help Vinay bounce back
The day David Warner got stuck into him on his Test debut, at the WACA ground, R Vinay Kumar was badly ridiculed. Some said he was as quick as Sourav Ganguly, others compared his pace to Anil Kumble. Warner felt he was one of the courses of a buffet, and dealt with him accordingly. Vinay's fourth ball in Test cricket was hit for a straight six, and another six off his bowling brought up the fastest century by an opener in Test cricket. The social media, a bit of an online pub representative of cricket fans' opinions, had found another Indian player they wanted to retire.
There is another side to Vinay, though. Inconspicuously he does his stuff in limited-overs cricket. And he also had the spirit to come back from that nightmare debut, and do well on the same tour. This is what Eric Simons, his bowling coach, has to say of him: "Vinay Kumar is one of the hardest-working cricketers I have worked with. You get guys with natural skill, you get guys who just do it through really hard work. He is one of those guys.
"He has got a lot of skill, but he has got a great work ethic, and he has embraced that really tremendously in the sense of going out and doing the work he does. He is always doing his drills. You always see him working. He wants to grow as a cricketer. He wants to improve his batting, he wants to improve his fielding. He is just getting the rewards for his hard work."
That kind of Test debut can crush many. Simons talked of how coaches can look a player in the eye and see if he is up for the next match or not. Vinay has been up for it despite that debut, he was up for it even on the second day of his debut Test. That Vinay has been bowling is reward enough, that he is the joint leading wicket-taker in the tournament after the first half of it is over, that he is taking a wicket every four overs, that he has been an exceptional outfielder are all a bonus and a big part of the reason why India sit at the top of the table.
"For me I don't think about all those things [what people say]," Vinay said on the eve of the India's fifth match in the ODI triangular. "For me, just going out there and giving my best is important. Whether you are playing for India or Karnataka. To keep it simple is really helping me. I don't think much about what they say about me. I try to give my best, be it batting, bowling or fielding."
The India cap didn't come easy for Vinay. For years he had been one of the top wicket-takers in the Ranji Trophy, only to see performers from the IPL - the newest big thing back then - overtake him. The IPL boys came and they went. His coach, LM Prakash, would tell Vinay, "See Vinay, your chance will definitely come, but the thing is, when it does come, you don't want to just play one game and come back."
Vinay has not stopped at just one game. He is not quick, he doesn't swing it like a banana, he will never be an intimidating presence, you won't notice him most of the time, but Vinay brings something the captains and coaches like. To call him just as a hard-worker will be patronising. Mules work hard too. Vinay has surely brought some skill to his limited-overs cricket. He mixes the pace up well, he is not afraid of bowling the slower-ball bouncer, and he seems a confident bowler who knows what he is doing.
"I really thank coach and bowling coach for backing me," Vinay said. "When the senior players and captain and coach have trust in you, definitely you will do well."
Vinay has high standards for himself. "Pace is coming really well now," he said. "I need to be more consistent. And definitely if I see the last four games I could have given 10 runs fewer every game. Even though I did well, there are many areas that I can really improve. "I bowled a few bad balls. When new batsmen came in, I bowled a few easy balls. They didn't go for boundaries, so if you see from outside it looks okay. For me as a bowler I know I can control all those things. Ten runs fewer I could have given."
Vinay has been impressive in this tournament, but he has yet to bowl under the pressure of having to defend runs, a scenario that has been traumatic in this tournament. The one thing about Vinay, though, is he will never rest or take things for granted. He has to fight for each day of international cricket he gets, and he will keep doing that.
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo