Just over a year ago,he was one among a plethora of cricketers lining up in the maidans of Mumbai,dreaming of making it big. And Paul Valthaty never tires of reliving the day he realized that dream by slamming the first century of IPL-4 at Mohali for Kings XI Punjab. Nor does he ever shy away from mentioning the consequences of the instant fame that came along with his memorable achievement.
It looks good when people recognise me and want to click photographs with me and want my autograph. One innings changed my career, says the 28-year-old opener. But with fame comes expectation,and Valthaty insists that his approach towards the fifth edition of the IPL is different from the earlier one. This season after all will be a litmus test for the aggressive right-hander,and a chance to prove that the hero status that he enjoyed last season wasnt just a flash in the pan.
It will be a big task ahead. Everybody will once again expect me to fire at the top of the order and I hope I can replicate my success, he says.
The build-up to IPL-5 hasnt quite been like he would have expected,however. Finishing as the fourth highest run-scorer in the previous edition didnt enhance his chances of breaking into the Mumbai team,resulting in him shifting base to Himachal Pradesh for the 2011-12 domestic season.
And Valthaty had failed to quite live up to his new state teams expectations,averaging a mere 20 in five first-class games and just 19.33 in three List A games.
I was hoping for some big knocks in domestic cricket but a wrist injury kept me away for a month. Playing a full domestic season was a great learning experience for me as it was the first time I appeared in the Ranji Trophy. Im not thinking about the past now,as its better to think about the future, he says.
Valthaty wasnt the only one concerned about his performances. From a distant land,his Kings XI skipper was also keeping an eye on his belligerent openers fortunes in the domestic circuit.
Gilchrist,reveals Valthaty,was constantly on the phone with him,and even sent him motivational messages during his time at Himachal Pradesh. And despite Valthatys struggles,Gilchrist reinforced the fact that the Mumbai lad still remained a key player in his IPL teams plans.
He (Gilchrist) is such a gentleman. Even after the IPL,he was in touch with me through text messages. He knows how to get the best from each player, he says. I still have a message from him after I scored the hundred last season. It was a bit emotional and touching.