Paul Valthaty was an unknown entity until A Wednesday (April 13) last year when he took India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni's Chennai Super Kings' to the cleaners during an Indian Premier League match in Mohali. The diminutive but effective hard-hitter scored a whirlwind 120 not out off 63 balls with 19 fours and two sixes en route to a six-wicket victory for Kings XI Punjab, chasing down a mammoth 189-run target with almost an over to spare.
Valthaty became an instant superstar. "Last year's IPL changed my whole life. Suddenly, I became a household name and people wanted to know everything about my personal life. It was a crazy period but I think I handled it quite well," said the 28-year-old, who fits the destiny's child tag to the tee.
A shoulder injury in early 2001 hurt his chances of wearing the lion-crested Mumbai Ranji Trophy cap and thereafter a freak eye injury during the 2002 U-19 World Cup in New Zealand forced him to return home mid-way through the tournament. After a few years of obscurity, a contract with Kings XI Punjab beckoned and since then the Air-India employee has only soared.
Valthaty credited most of his IPL 2011 success to his coach-cum-captain Adam Gilchrist of Australia. "I owe a lot of my IPL glory to skipper Adam. Opening the batting with Adam has been one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life. He is very supportive while at the crease and keeps helping me out by offering tips on different aspects like my strokeplay or a bowler's line and length or the field placements etc. He's a total team man and a great leader. His commitment to the team can be judged from the fact that though we begin training here only tomorrow, he's already landed here over four days back," explained Valthaty, who took home a swanky new sedan after winning last year's Individual Performance Award of IPL IV.
A lot has transpired since and Valthaty has soaked in all the mixed feelings. "A lot was said about me when I moved over to play for Himachal Pradesh (in the plate division). But I moved State purely because I felt that I would get better chances to play there. However, unfortunately I suffered a wrist injury in October and had to miss out on a couple of Plate Division matches and around four one-dayers. But the experience of playing away from home has kept me in good stead though. Now, I'm fit and raring to go," said the Borivali resident.
Team goals matter more to the all-rounder than his individual show. "Last year we missed making it to the play-offs by just one match. Had we won the match against Deccan Chargers, we would have been through to the knockout stage and from there it's anyone's game. So, this time round, our priority will be to make that play-offs stage. I'm working hard on my bowling too with (newly-appointed India bowling coach) Joe Dawes. I'm trying to work out some good variations which is a must in the T20 format," said Valthaty, who is more than willing to live up to his reputation of being one of the big hitters of the IPL.
"There are bigger hitters than me in the IPL, but I realise that the pressure will definitely be on me since I've done well last year, and I'm ready for it. I won't change the way I play and will approach my batting in the same fashion - strokes and all - and hope to have the same results," he said.
Valthaty in 2011 IPL: