IPL: 120* was a reward from God for hanging on to my dreams, says Paul Valthaty | Cricket News

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MUMBAI: You pause for a moment when he greets you with a warm “hello” at the Cricket Club of India. Like the historic Brabourne Stadium in the premises of this prestigious club, Paul Valthaty will always remain etched in the minds of those who’s seen his blazing 63-ball 120 not out for Punjab Kings against MS Dhoni’s Chennai Super Kings in the 2011 IPL at Mohali . It was a match-winning knock which catapulted him into stardom.
“Obviously, the 120 not out was the most celebrated moment of my career. I look at it this way that after all the troubles I went through with my eye injury, which happened when I was playing for the India in a 2002 Under-19 World Cup game against Bangladesh — a ball went through the gap of my helmet — it was a reward that God gave me for hanging on to my dreams and believing in myself despite all the vision problems I had after the injury, which I still have and will stay with me forever. I had to undergo and forego a lot to compete at a level which I wanted to and I’m extremely happy and a proud man that I could do it in the biggest tournament in the world — the IPL,” Valthaty tells TOI.
The eye injury dogged the early part of Valthaty’s career. “I had to undergo four-five laser surgeries. The retina in my right eye was completely ruptured. The doctor, with great level of expertise, managed to repair it as far as possible. I had to change my batting completely in a way at the tender age of 17,” he reveals. “I played the IPL, Ranji Trophy and in the 2011 Challenger Trophy. So the eye injury didn’t stop me from having a career in cricket. Hence, all of this makes me proud of myself,” he asserts.
After his heroic knock, Valthaty was in the race to be picked for India, but a wrist injury after that IPL season derailed his plans for an India cap. “I couldn’t represent the country. Unfortunately in 2011, after the IPL, I again had my share of injuries. This time, a wrist injury meant that I couldn’t grip the bat for almost the entire season after the IPL. I had it operated upon post the 2012 IPL in London,” he rues.
Even though the India cap eluded him, Valthaty is not a man of regrets. “Every cricketer wants to play for the country. I’m no different. But as I said earlier, I could at least have a career and I ended up playing a lot more professional cricket despite the eye injury. Obviously, only a handful of our cricketers have played for the country, but I feel there are millions who would want to be in my shoes and achieve whatever I could. I’m extremely happy and proud of my career,” he summarizes.
Rather than dwelling on the cricketer that he could’ve been, Valthaty, now 38, and on the verge of retiring “formally,” chooses to focus on how he’s again connected to cricket and the IPL, playing a different role this time, though. “So now I’m handling cricket for CCI. I’m in the CCI’s cricket sub-committee. At CCI, we’re all working tirelessly to make sure that the IPL matches are held smoothly at the Brabourne Stadium. We’re extremely happy to host IPL matches at CCI,” he says.
I’m involved with training and mentoring cricketers — I’ve been mentoring the CCI cricket team for the past seven years. I also have my own cricket academy at Kandivali,” he says.
One man who’s always encouraged Valthaty is former India skipper Dilip Vengsarkar. “Yes, he still encourages me. He met me the other day at the Talyarkhan final, and told me: ‘Paul, you should be still playing,’ says the veteran allrounder with a laugh. “I owe a lot to the Dilip Vengsarkar cricket academy (when he learnt playing the sport),” he adds.
Understandably, Valthaty still loves to talk about the significance of his 120 not out. “It’s still the highest individual score in the IPL in a run chase. We chased down 190. I’m the first Mumbai batsman to get a hundred in the IPL. Dhoni congratulated me after that knock, and Sachin (Tendulkar) too did the same later this season,” he says.
What made him play so well that night? “I had my opportunity in 2009, when I played two games for the Rajasthan Royals, but somehow, I wasn’t ready mentally for such a huge platform with all the big names playing with me. I mean, Shane Warne was my captain! When I played in 2011 I just was more prepared physically and mentally I just knew that I had the skill part for that level,” he concludes.



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