Punjab v Chennai, IPL 2011, Mohali April 13, 2011

Veni, vidi, Valthaty

Paul Valthaty's unbeaten 120 was among the most memorable of IPL innings, one that made even MS Dhoni wilt under pressure

A joke began to do the rounds on Twitter and on ESPNcricinfo's commentary feedback when a shy and stodgy batsman walked out with Adam Gilchrist to open Punjab's chase of 189. "Knock knock. Who's there? Valthaty. Valthaty, who? Val, thirty runs fewer would have been easier to chase." It captured the viewing public's sheer incredulity over the move. Here were the IPL's cellar-dwellers facing a mountain against the defending champions, pushing down their most successful batsman, Shaun Marsh, in favour of an unknown. That sentiment soon disappeared and, 120 runs later, was ground into the Mohali dust.

What remained was one question: Just who is Paul Valthaty? He has played only one domestic one-day game. In three previous IPL innings, he had managed scores of 5, 1 and 6. Even his ESPNcricinfo profile had an unrecognisable picture, possibly from his school days. Back in 2002, Valthaty was a member of India's Under-19 squad, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Irfan Pathan, Parthiv Patel and Ambati Rayudu. Dilip Vengsarkar, who was the manager of that team, expected big things from him but unfortunately Valthaty was struck in the eye and his career stalled.

All that changed, after 63 balls of the cleanest hitting, against an attack that was close to international standard. Valthaty's unbeaten century was among the more memorable IPL innings, one that made even the seemingly invincible MS Dhoni wilt under pressure. And it made India sit up and take note.

Gilchrist later revealed Valthaty was always one of Punjab's first-choice openers. "Paul hit some nice shots in the first match [against Pune], but unfortunately got out," Gilchrist said after the game. "He showed some talent in the warm-up games too. That was an amazing innings. I loved standing around [at the other end] and watching him go today."

Gilchrist is clearly not the batsman he once was yet the ease with which Valthaty reduced him to a spectator boggled the mind. His batting is based on the principle of getting behind the line with a half-step forward, and then hitting through it. He attacked every time Chennai's bowlers landed the ball in his half, with an audacious series of drives, clips and whips. His stand with Gilchrist yielded 61 off 5.5 overs, and set Punjab up nicely for the post-Powerplay hustle.

When the field fell back, Valthaty responded by stepping up a gear. Every time Chennai got a wicket, he counter-punched with clever boundaries. He played a couple of late-cuts, cover drives off either foot, pick-up shots through the off side and, towards the end, two delicate steers through point when the seamers landed yorkers wide of the stumps. While he was punishing the good balls, he ensured he did not waste a single poor delivery.

"In all fairness it was a belter of a track," Valthaty said later. Twice. "I am modest," he then added when prompted to bask in the glory of his accomplishment. "It was a dream-come-true for me. I believed in myself, and my team management believed in me, and it all came together perfectly today. I had started preparing two months before the IPL, and it all paid off today. The hundred is yet to sink in. I will never forget that moment, and it meant a lot to me."

The IPL is littered with flash-in-the-pan 40s and 50s, but Valthaty had taken it upon himself to see the chase through, which impressed Dhoni. "Paul batted really well," Dhoni said. "He was at his best throughout, a challenge was thrown at him and he was up to it. He went on till the end, which is very important - he did not leave it for others."

In the pre-IPL era, Valthaty would have not got another chance. India now knows who he is. It's now up to him to stay in the spotlight.

Nitin Sundar is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on April 14, 2011, 18:35 GMT

    I saw him in the hotel in Chandigarh but did nt know he will become a star in few hours..how I rue not talking to him and clicking with him... an opportunity missed

  • Dummy4 on April 14, 2011, 14:12 GMT

    Interested things to know.............1. At Cricinfo, no photo was available to display (only was a portrait of his school life) now manyyyyy..............2. On Facebook only couple of people were like him, now over 2000 person like himmmm.............3. He is also in Cricinfo list of Most Popular Search (You can see also his name at top of this website).................It is start only

  • Dummy4 on April 14, 2011, 13:59 GMT

    Paul Valthaty Batting Was Amazing - Awesome - Brilliant - This was the BEST Inning of IPL and One of the Best of T20..........There Was No Power Hitting, Not Going to Big Hits and One of The Most Important thing was Cool & Calmness.........He Went on Till the End, Which Was Very Important, He Did Not Leave it for Others.........He Hits only 2 Sixes in 120 on 63 Balls only.............19 Fours is also a Record of most fours in an Innings in IPL History.........He played Cricket Book Shots (All this kind of qualities make him a Genuine Cricket Player that needed to be ODI as well Test).............If He Can Score Constantly with This Temperament than Should Be Get Call For Indian Team.........

  • Sharad on April 14, 2011, 10:32 GMT

    This is why I love the IPL. It's the Indian Domestic players that benefit the most from this event each year. We are getting to know our players. I've never met or heard of a person who has been to a Ranji game, in fact I myself do not know who plays in my state team, not even the captain. Hopefully in the near future, we can catch our stars in Ranji action, thanks to their popularity from IPL.

  • Himanshu on April 14, 2011, 7:59 GMT

    @Prasanna Vallinayagam mate Manish Pandey is banned for 4 matches because of the way he negotiated for his place with IPl teams. He will be a permanent member of the team after serving the ban

  • Dummy4 on April 14, 2011, 7:11 GMT

    @Madhavan.Varun: U r rite, i understood that the pitch was a belter when a guy like Vijay and Dhoni strike at almost 200% Otherwise its not the case.....Its ur team decision to send in Badri as they were tottering at 0 for 2 in a belter.....Couldn't accept the fact that CSK got the taste of its own medicine?????? Blaming on the lights as though u were there in the stadium, dont forget that this was the stadium which hosted the semi final between India and pakistan, how come the lights suddenly became bad, its CSK players who were complacent after scoring 187 that made to drop catches, never mind fortune favours the brave like Paul... To guys who think Manish Pandey is a one time wonder, he is performing consistently in Ranji Trophies, better than highly rated Saurabh Tiwary, unfortunatley he didin't get much chance with RCB even after decent performances, even now Pune prefers Mithun Manahas over Pandey for some reason unknown, but pandey is a better batsman than vijay & Tiwary

  • Dummy4 on April 14, 2011, 6:39 GMT

    New Virender Sehwag .He proved what he's capable of.A valient knock of 120.

  • Veeran on April 14, 2011, 6:08 GMT

    First of all people stop comparing his innings with manish pandey. Yesterday he was simply unstoppable. Played all orthodox strokes and most importantly found the gaps. If u do not have talent then u cannot find gaps with the regularity of this guy. Now for all Manish Pandey bashers, yes he scored the first ipl century and then failed consistently only in IPL. Reason?? Hes game has changed a great bit after that innings. He has scored heavily in the domestic first class matches and even in emerging players tournament in australia.I have been a keen follower of domestic matches too and he was like a back bone of karnatakas batting after rahul dravid and he has been the saviour. . Yes he has slowed down a bit with his batting ..this is coz he is been playing with the likes of Kallis, dravid for 3 yrs now and it ought to have some +ve effect on him and he values his wicket more now. and he is just 20+ somethin and has a lot to learn. got all the strokes in the book. so leave him alone

  • Dummy4 on April 14, 2011, 5:05 GMT

    Heartening to see one of the fringe-players make a mark thru the IPL. And most of his runs were thru proper strokes and he cud play all around the wkt. But then the ind team is so packed with batting talent that its almost impossible to find a spot there...wud really like to c some totally bowler make a big impact...that wud really pitchfork him into the national squad given india's perennial bowling shortage

  • Manasvi on April 14, 2011, 2:57 GMT

    I was impressed by the knock especially because it came while chasing a large total and he did it almost single-handed against a very good attack. BUT, let us NOT over-hype this effort. People hyped up Pandey after that hundred and he's not done well at all in T20 or in other formats. Similarly, Shane Warne praised Yusuf Pathan's 36 ball 100 as one of the best innings ever and we all know how many limitations Yusuf has. I only hope that Valthaty can maintain his consistency and at least make it to the Indian T20 team in the future. I don't think he has the right temperament/technique to succeed in Tests. And the fact is that the Test and ODI teams have only 1 slot open. Whereas, in T20 there are a good no. of positions available in the international squad because only Yuvi, Dhoni, Raina, Gambhir and Sehwag are certain. The other 2 slots are up for grabs.

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