After he bowled out Sachin Tendulkar of the Mumbai Indians in an Indian Premier League match last month, Royal Challengers Bangalore’s (RCB) R. Vinay Kumar believed he would make it to the Indian team for the Twenty20 World Cup. “A friend had joked that if I bowl Tendulkar out, my place is reserved,” smiles Kumar shyly, as he tells the story of his latest success.
R. Vinay Kumar. Photo: Getty Images
Just six days later, Kumar’s name was in the list for the team headed to the West Indies for the event that’s currently on.
The sudden media attention that followed, the fans and the pressure to perform are new for the 26-year-old who spent a large part of his childhood in Davangere, Karnataka—a quiet town known for its several educational institutions.
Born in Shimoga (Karnataka) to Ranganath N.D. and Sowbhagya, Kumar remembers his days in Shimoga as being fairly comfortable. “We were there till my fourth standard and then my father’s business (of running a club and a small farm) failed. We shifted to Davangere,” says Kumar.
“My father didn’t have a steady income then, he tried various small business opportunities and even drove an autorickshaw for three-four years,” he says, pointing out quickly that though he knew of the family financial status, it didn’t bother him.
“Even as I child I was quiet and went about doing my business. I was considered the good boy, so my parents just let me do what I wanted,” he says, laughing.
Kumar’s fascination with cricket, something that he shares with his father, began when he was in school. “My father loves cricket so much that even if some unknown boys play on the street, he’ll stop, watch a few overs and then continue to walk.”
The late Prakash Powar, who ran a free camp in Davangere, first spotted Kumar’s talent when he was 12. “I used to play with a tennis ball when he invited me to try leather. I trained with him for long and got my first break when I played for the Tumkur Zone in an under-16 tournament.” There was no looking back for the seamer, who adds that being the first born in the family added a sense of responsibility. He has a younger brother and sister.
“I was never told that I have to support the family, but I knew that this was my duty,” he says. A commerce graduate, Kumar and family moved to Bangalore in 2004 after he started representing Karnataka in the Ranji Trophy, which also earned him a job with Vijaya Bank. Two years ago, RCB signed him on for $30,000.
“Now my parents are relaxed and once in a while my mother calls after a match and asks me to be careful and not take risky dives when fielding,” he laughs. When asked if all the sudden attention bothers him, he says, “It’s fine,” and then pauses to add, “It is fun to go to the after-match party sometimes, but often I show my face and leave quickly. It’s the game I need to focus on.”
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