NAGPUR: The VCA Stadium hardly saw fans who could appreciate the brilliance. In an almost-empty ground, a sportsperson had to savour a dream spell with just a few high-fives and handshakes with his teammates. But, it was too good for the handful of spectators (you could literally count them), who turned up to witness Karnataka skipper R Vinay Kumar’s class unfold during the Ranji Trophy quarterfinal match against Mumbai on Thursday.
Any match between these teams would seem mouth-watering. Phrases like ‘clash of the domestic titans’ are bound to be thrown around. But, the pacer’s performance on the first day would make anyone question the validity of the aforementioned phrase, for the Davanagere native almost single-handedly stifled the most revered team in Indian domestic cricket. The speedster bagged a hat-trick across two overs to become only the fourth to register multiple trebles in the tournament’s history.
It was Vinay’s second Ranji treble (the last one came in 2007-08 against Maharashtra). Playing his 100th match for Karnataka, Vinay made optimum use of grass on the pitch to claim his second six-for of the season. The seamer now has 19 scalps. The number might not say much about, but he sounded upbeat. “I’m happy with the way I have been bowling. Some people might talk just by looking at the number, but I’m satisfied at the end of the day and that’s what counts,” the 33-year-old said.
In the 2014-15 semifinal, which incidentally was the last time the sides faced each other in Ranji, the pacer had grabbed another six-for to rescue his team. So, is it the stature of Mumbai that brings out his best? “Mumbai are a great side and they have been doing well for many years. I take it as a challenge whenever I play them. A positive approach should be there and I’m happy that most times, I do well against them,” Vinay opined.
The hat-trick nothwithstanding, Vinay considers the 2014-15 performance as one of his best. “The last six-for was better since we had gotten all out for around 200, and then we bundled them out for 44. So obviously, I rate it as one of my best,” said the sixth bowler in Ranji history to register a hat-trick in the knockout stages.
The hat-trick included the wickets of in-form batsmen Prithvi Shaw and Jay Bista, who became the former India pacer’s first two victims by edging to Karun Nair. New man Akash Parkar was trapped leg before by an in swinging delivery to complete the hat-trick.
“We had seen the videos of the Mumbai youngsters. We felt they had the tendency to go for shots. Taking the ball away from right-handers is my strength, and I did just that,” Vinay said, adding that openers should play shots a little closer to the body.
In Nagpur: Mumbai 173 in 56 ovs (Kulkarni 75; Vinay 6-34) vs Karnataka 115/1 (Mayank 62 n.o).
In Vijayawada: Madhya Pradesh 223/6 in 90 ovs(Dane 59, Ojha 49; Mishra 3/40) vs Delhi.
In Jaipur: Bengal 261/6 in 86 ovs (Easwaran 129, Majumdar 94; Ishwar 3/49) vs Gujarat.
In Surat: Vidarbha 45/3 in 24 ovs vs Kerala.