Wednesday, January 07, 2009

"For a Cricketer to be Successful, It is all blood, sweat and tears" – Vinan G Nair

Here is an interview I did with Kerala State Team wicket keeper Vinan G Nair. He has played 13 matches so far for Kerala and has over 30 victims behind the stumps and scored half century 4 times. His highest score is 70 against Railways scored last season in the Plate group semifinals. Here he is talking about himself, about Kerala cricket, Indian cricket, Sreesanth, Tinu Yohannan, future prospects from Kerala and his future. 

Even though you are playing for Kerala for the last few years not many Keralites know about you. If I am correct you represented Kerala in Under-22, Under-25 and for the last few years have been the part and parcel of the Kerala Ranji Team. Can you summarize your journey so far? 

I started playing from age of sixteen got into the under-19 side next year played all my junior categories unchallenged. Joined State Bank of Travancore (SBT) in 1998 as a batsman keeper, SBT had Kamaruddin who was in the Ranji Team, I played my first 5 years as a Batsman for SBT, so was never considered for the Ranji as a Keeper, Kamaruddin after being dropped from Ranji suffered an eye injury as a result I got to do the Wicket keeping duties in SBT and my good show for the team earned me a place  in the Ranji Team. 

In football, Kerala is a major force in India. But when it comes to cricket it is no where near the scene. It took more than 50 years after independence for a Kerala player to break into Indian team (Tinu Yohannan) while a lot of Kerala players play for India. Why is it that not so many players make it to the national scene from Kerala even though cricket is as popular as football in our state? 

We lack in infrastructure still we don’t have a cricket ground, our cricketers do not have any exposure to good cricket, our league system is not keenly contested, tournaments are played in small grounds with a max of 50 yard boundaries, we do not have turf wickets these are some of the drawbacks we have. 

If my memory is correct, Kerala got qualified for the knock out stage of Ranji Trophy (before the present system of two tiers came into existence) only twice. In the present system only once did we qualify for the Super league? Why do you think Kerala cannot make it big in domestic competition? 

We lack self belief, preparation and the above said lack of facilities. 

Sreesanth has done some great cameos in his short international scene. Whom do you think in the present team has the talent to get a national nod? 

Rohan Prem and Raiphy Vincent have the talent but we have to be in the elite and they have to really perform consistently 

In Ranji Trophy and other state competitions, each state can have two out of state players. In the previous years Kerala had players like S Suresh, S Ramesh, Sujith Somasundar and Hemanth Kumar. Last two years Kerala played without any out of state players. What is your take on it? Should Kerala fish for more out of state players or stick to only Kerala players? Or are there any reasons why Kerala Cricket Association or players don’t want out of state players? 

It is good that we do not have any professionals, our boys will get a chance to play good cricket, but we should not be hesitant to think of that if our guys is not up to the job or else we should be content playing in the plate division. 

I remember former Kerala Captain Ananthapadmanabhan in an interview saying that in the early nineties they had to travel in unreserved compartments of the train to play Ranji Trophy matches and the pay was also less. We keep on hearing from Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) that a big portion of the profit they make goes in improving the pay and other facilities for the first class cricketers. Is this true? Has the facilities/pay increased considerably in the last decade? How did you travel from Kerala to Dharmasala to play Himachal Pradesh this year? 

Facilities are good compared to old days, we regularly fly to all places and stay at 3 star facilities. 

If we look into the good state teams in India (like Mumbai, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka) they have a strong first class system. In Kerala there is one Jacobs trophy just before the Kerala state team is selected. How good is the first class cricket system in Kerala compared to other successful states?

Poor 

You have seen the growth of Sreesanth as a cricketer. You have played with him long before he got selected to play for India. You played with him few days back in your match against Jammu Kashmir. Can you share your experiences playing with Sreesanth? Do the younger players in Kerala team get motivated seeing Sreesanth? 

He is a Very Confident young kid, with lots of Energy and self belief, at the Under 19 level itself he would say that he is going to play for the country, he obviously brings a lot of energy in into the ground and his aggressiveness won us the last match against Jharkhand and he bowled quick. 

Obviously the youngsters now believe that if they do well they can also play for India and Sreesanth also keep telling to every one that a good season will get you to reckoning. 

Once Tinu Yohanan was dropped from the Indian cricket team his form slumped so much that he was even dropped from Kerala cricket team. He has fought back to the team. Can you tell me what exactly happened? Did dropping from Indian team demoralize him? 

Might have, not sure what went through him but he is the most hard working cricketer I have seen. 

Last season in Ranji Trophy, Sreekumar Nair was in top form with the bat. He became the first Kerala player to score a triple hundred. Still when the South Zone team was announced his name was not there but there were a few players who have performed less than him getting the nod. What else does he have to prove to at least get into the South Zone team? 

I am not sure, but he did get 600+ runs last year. 

Major strength of the Kerala team now is their fast bowling. Kerala has good fast bowlers like their captain Sony Cheruvathoor, Tinu Yohannan, Prashanth Chandran, and Sreesanth. But if we look at the home ground of Kerala in Palakkad it is almost a dead batting track. Why doesn’t KCA make lively pitches that aid seamers? 

I am not sure, may be the soil is not suitable for preparing such tracks. 

If you have to start your career all over again what would you have done differently? 

Of course, Now I know what a cricketer should do to be successful, its all blood sweat and tears, the more effort put in more successful you will be. 

Any advice to young cricketers/wicket keepers who aspire to play for their state/country? 

To be honest keeping is a bloody job, always under the scanner, You have to really work twice as harder than any other bowler or batsman as u have to be a good keeper as well as a good batsman, its really tough to do that and the level of fitness has to be top class failing which u wont survive. 

Who is your favorite cricketer or who is your role model? 

Sachin, Gilchrist, Sewagh, Waqar Younis 

What is the most memorable moment (cherishing moment) in your career? 

Last years semifinals against Railways, I got 70 against a champion side with three test bowlers (Murali Karthik, Sanjay Bangar and Harvinder Singh), I was able to dominate them. 

What was your saddest day in cricket? 

When ever SBT looses……… 

Age wise you are in the mid-thirties. Any thoughts of retirement

I want to play as long as possible, I think I can play Ranji for 2 more years with the kind of fitness and form I am in, can be self reviewed every year. 

Ananthapadmanabhan after retiring from first class cricket has become an umpire. Do you plan anything like that or do you plan to give something back to cricket once you hang up the boots? 

I would like to take up coaching. 

I know for any cricketer playing for the country is the greatest thing. You are a wicket keeper and with Dhoni going great guns and younger players like Karthik and Parthiv Patel, do you believe you can come anywhere close to being called for national duty? 

Not a chance. 

One last question - Do you think that Kerala will ever win Ranji trophy? 

Yes we can if we set lots of things right. 

Let us hope lot of "those things" set right soon!

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