A few days ago when Kings XI Punjabs hard-hitting opener Paul Valthaty returned to his Kandivali home in Mumbai,his neighbours were initially curious as to what was the extent of the injury which forced him to take a break during the Indian Premier League the tournament,which propelled him to stardom last season.
But it was difficult for Valthaty to mask the truth of his premature arrival at home from the prying eyes for too long. News got around that their famous neighbour had been temporarily off-loaded after making 28 runs in five games at a dismal average of 5.60.
Nowadays,Valthaty spends his evening in front of the television watching the IPL. On Wednesday,if Valthaty had watched Punjab beat Bangalore by four wickets,he would have realised that his immediate return to the squad could be further delayed.
Mandeep Singh,the 20-year-old Punjab opener,is in the process of emulating Valthaty this season.
On Wednesday,Mandeep hit 43 off 30 while opening the innings and at No.3,23-year-old Nitin Saini hit 50 off 36. Mandeep has scored 277 runs so far,while Saini has made 117 runs.
Mandeep,the new poster boy
Mandeeps sequence of scores read 43,56,22 and 24 and he is an opener,the spot Valthaty,28,occupied before the runs dried up. The talented Mandeep is also cashing in on his relative anonymity,which means rival think-tanks are only recording his game and are yet to dissect it. Valthaty knows how much tougher the season after the breakthrough one can be after opposition teams have studied footage.
Offie Ramesh Powar also made the trip home midway through IPL V after domestic players started feeling the heat. He believes that Valthaty suffered because of two reasons.
Last year nobody had seen his game. Now teams have come up with game plans to counter his stroke play. Also a player needs to feel confident to succeed. There is extra pressure on domestic players to perform else they may struggle to get games the next season as someone else may come in. International stars dont have to worry as much because they tend to be given a longer rope, Powar said.
There is no doubt that Mandeep is moving up the pecking order. Mandeep is one youngster who knows what hard work means. If he continues to work hard,we will continue to get results, David Hussey had said after Punjab beat Bangalore on Wednesday.
Mandeep is hoping his form lasts for the remainder of the season. I generally bat at No.4 on the domestic circuit. Playing fast bowlers has always been my strength and so being promoted up the order was an opportunity as it gives me chances to score, said Mandeep,who values the tips and time Pakistans Azhar Mahmood has shared with him.
Powar also believes that Mandeep is riding high on the confidence a good first-class season has brought.
Mandeep top-scored for Punjab in the Ranji Trophy with 458 runs at an average of 76.33. Valthaty averaged just 20 in his five first-class matches after he moved to Himachal Pradesh at the start of this season. Life has come a full circle for Valthaty as Mandeep and Saini have begun to script their own IPL success story.