Punjab v Chennai, IPL 2011, Mohali April 14, 2011

Valthaty graduates from school of hard knocks

It has been an arduous journey, but if this convoluted route leads to bigger rewards, as it has for others before him, Paul Valthaty will accept it

"Hang around for just ten balls, and the bowlers will watch you for the rest of the time." This was the text message Paul Valthaty received from cricket journalist Makarand Waingankar, who has mentored him from age 11. The sms arrived after Kings XI Punjab's match on Sunday against Pune Warriors, when Valthaty batted six deliveries before slashing aggressively to point. He'd probably forgotten the advice on Wednesday, against Chennai Super Kings, when his first ten deliveries faced had yielded three boundaries and one dropped catch. But he hung around for another 53 balls to finish unbeaten on 120, the third-highest individual score in the IPL.

Valthaty's career is a similarly unconventional story, including a decade in the wilderness after a promising start. The future had seemed bright in 2001, when he was selected for the Mumbai Ranji Trophy probables, and the following year he played for India in the Under-19 World Cup. It seemed a natural extension to his junior career, when he'd played for some of the best sides in Mumbai: Don Bosco High School, Vengsarkar Academy, Podar College, Rizvi College.

He started out as a batsman who bowled a bit, which he remains to this day, and Dilip Vengsarkar saw potential in the then 12-year old Valthaty. "He displayed great promise and scored heavily for the academy in local matches," Vengsarkar told Hindustan Times. A chance move up the order had allowed him to display his appetite for runs. "During an Under-14 game, I was asked to open, and I ended up getting 197," Valthaty said. Gradually, he built up a reputation as a prolific scorer at age-group level.

But the focus of his dreams, the Mumbai Ranji call-up, never happened. An injury under his eye against Bangladesh that cut short his World Cup stint did not help. "I took 2-3 years to get back on track," Valthaty told ESPNcricinfo. The world had moved ahead by then but he joined Air India, which has a rich cricketing tradition and played under Hrishikesh Kanitkar, a vastly experienced former India player and Ranji-winning captain with Rajasthan. Valthaty grew enough to be chosen leader whenever Kanitkar was unavailable.

Still the Mumbai call-up never arrived, save for a solitary one-dayer against Baroda in 2006. Where did he go wrong? Balwinder Sandhu, Valthaty's coach at the Vengsarkar Academy, thinks that the only thing that he could have done was to improve his shot selection. "He was always an aggressive batsman and a clean hitter. Even if he gets 30 runs, he will hit four good shots that will stay with you for a long time," Sandhu said. "I used to enjoy watching him bat. Excellent technique and thinking cricketer, but he could have worked on his shot selection."

Was it his perceived impetuosity that did him in? Sandhu pointed instead to misfortune. "One of the unlucky few players, I must say. We backed him at that time, we were convinced, but he could not get enough support from the men who matter. Such talents have to be nurtured." Sandhu cited the example of Yusuf Pathan who, despite being initially branded as a hitter, matured enough to play match-winning innings for the country. "People start criticising aggressive players for going for their shots. Such players need a lot of backing, technical as well as emotional. But times have changed. Not many want to invest nowadays in nurturing a cricketer."

But Valthaty did not fade away despite being ignored. He had no other option. "Cricket was all I knew. Any extra motivation was not needed," Valthaty said. "All other things were anyway beyond my control." The IPL brought about a revival in his fortunes, as it has for so many Indian domestic players. Valthaty got a contract with Rajasthan Royals that finally gave him an extended run in the Mumbai team, albeit the Twenty20 side. Then came the Kings XI Punjab call-up. "Abhishek Nayar recommended my name, and Michael Bevan liked what he saw." On Wednesday, as Valthaty walked off the field, he was fairly composed when he greeted his team-mates, accepting their congratulations, shaking hands. The moment of elation - the jump of joy - was reserved for Nayar.

In only his second game for his new franchise, Valthaty has already scripted an innings that has catapulted him in to the national spotlight. It has been an arduous journey but if this convoluted route leads to bigger rewards, as it has for others before him, Valthaty will accept it. Meanwhile, he will keep hanging around, regardless.

Abhishek Purohit is an editorial assistant at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Varnendra on April 17, 2011, 14:55 GMT

    @Darshan911, it is high time selectors look at Sehwag's record analytically. His doubters expected Sehwag to fail in the last tour to SA; he did fail. Even those doubters expected Sehwag to succeed in the last tour by Australia; he failed. In the ODI's he has a poor record against Aus and SA. In T20 he is not able to succeed even in the IPL. They are facts. Now analyse his game; he finds boundaries in test matches easily because of attacking fields are set and keep going but only in 2 conditions; first the wicket should be easy paced and low; second either the bowling is ordinary or the bowlers were careless in not having a plan against him; he scored that 300 against SA because Stein and Morkel forgot about him. Now see his attitude; he called for decision review in the SF and Fina in the WCl without consulting Tendulkar at the other end; what he thinks of himself?

  • Dummy4 on April 17, 2011, 10:09 GMT

    Hey if he(Valthaty) needs to come up .., then its up to his talent and determination , why we bother if he takes up a place in one day or a test side .., the selecters have their own rule in choosing their eleven .., and even if the selecters have their selection wand on valthaty .., we are not just goin to keep it quiet justifying their actions.., for that he has to shut all our mouths down and even after that one thing is for sure ... whether he comes up or not ,after all these struggles is upto him and his destiny which we are not goin to bother (have we ever even done that thru this blog and our writings ...? wish anyone comment on this... ) To make it big on the stage that matters ...our ideas and opinions is just for this blog and their interests., Wishing him all the success to make big after all this hardships he has undergone ... its difficult to find a seat onboard Cricket Team India ...Coz We're CHAMPIONS for the next 4 years from now .....!!!

  • Dummy4 on April 17, 2011, 5:33 GMT

    It is important that Team India recognizes him as a find and onboard him at he highest level in ODIs and T20Is. Otherwise no success in IPL is worthwhile

  • Vikash on April 17, 2011, 5:29 GMT

    Hi modesty speaks volumes about his character... and he has loads and loads of self belief.. Future of Indian Cricket is bright... take a bow Valthaty..

  • Daison on April 17, 2011, 5:13 GMT

    The first comment from Kumarms is outragious! He is comparing with Paul with Sachin and Sehwag. Come on man, the guy just played a wonderful innings and one more now against Decans. Let him play and if he deserve a place in the National Side he should get it. Not just Sachin and Sehwag play for India, lesser players are also in the team and its 11 players make the team. And if Yusuf Pathan can be looked after like he has been, Paul should be given a chance if he is consistent enuf. Lets wish him good luck.

  • Dhruv on April 17, 2011, 4:03 GMT

    For all you people jumping the gun a little bit, asking Paul Valthaty to open the batting for the Indian Test side, hold your horses. The guy has played two knocks in IPl, which is completely different to playing one day, and especially test. Where any weekness in your batting will be exposed. I am happy for him and what he has achieved givin his opportunity, but let the man prove himself.

  • wsfv on April 17, 2011, 1:37 GMT

    well..all these top order bats men may not perform well if thrown at 5th ot 6th down.if so VVSL would have been much better bats men in scoring runs than tendulkar or dravid in test had he given enough chances to bat at 3. i sure am a big fan of him... It definitely will be difficult for this guy paul to come into indian national team but boy sure has got the talent. very level headed. strange that he never really spakred so far.. i hope he is not a one tournament wonder with the way he is playing the shots..cant compare him with Manish pandey for sure... ofcurse he could not have better well with Mumbai or Rajastan if thrown at 5,6 down..he is no michael bevan for sure.... He still needs to improve to match up with likes like Tendulkar or sehwag.. each has their own game.. i wish him good luck...

  • Darshan on April 17, 2011, 0:22 GMT

    @Maruthudelft: Why should we drop Shewag out of team. He provided potential strength to our opening stand when India needed the most. His presense gives fear to many bowlers today. I think it's time to get Paul and Shehwag to open innings.

  • Dummy4 on April 16, 2011, 22:38 GMT

    Good Article... Need no Motivation.....

  • Dummy4 on April 16, 2011, 21:43 GMT

    Paul's awesome hitting neutralized the great Dhoni's captaincy!! Wish him all the luck for future.. hope he gets to play under MSD or beyond in national colors.

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