S Arvind had the most endearing giggle prior to every response when contacted hours after he announced his retirement from first-class cricket on Tuesday (February 27). It sounded like a weight had been lifted off the Karnataka paceman’s age-worn shoulders.
The pointedness of his answers though, suggested that he had put some thought into it. It was almost as if he had put pen to paper the night before in preparation for the interactions he was about to have soon after Karnataka’s Vijay Hazare Trophy 2018 title clash against Saurashtra in Delhi.
“I have been thinking about retiring for a while now but I decided last night. When you come to my age, you don’t think about too much else,” the 33-year-old laughed while speaking to Wisden India. “Seriously though, I think I was fit enough for a couple of more seasons…
“But I just felt like I had to step aside because there are so many good young bowlers in the side. I felt they should get a proper shot at settling into the Karnataka side before pushing for a spot in the Indian team.”
Perhaps, Arvind, who made his debut for India aged 30, doesn’t want anyone else to suffer his fate. His maiden international game was his last, as he was overlooked after a solitary Twenty20 International against South Africa in Dharamsala in 2015.
“I think I didn’t get enough chances early on, but that’s no one’s fault because we had such good bowlers in our side. By the time I matured into a first-class level bowler, I was already old. Also, I had too many injuries to cope with,” the left-arm seamer offered matter-of-factly.
Almost immediately after making his debut for Karnataka – coincidentally against Saurashtra – in 2008, Arvind met with a career-threatening road accident. He fought his way back into the state side for the 2009-2010 season. Life looked sunny as he picked up wickets in a bulk, but as luck would have it, he busted his knee in 2011 and was out until the 2014-15 season. Arvind was instrumental in Karnataka’s second title-treble season, bagging 54 wickets across formats.
His successful domestic showing and good performances for India A sides thrust him to the Indian side. That dream was short-lived but Arvind isn’t one to whine over lost chances.
“That was a great experience. I learnt a lot and put all that to use when I played domestic cricket. The more important thing is that I was able to give all that knowledge to the younger boys in the team,” he elaborated. “I learnt a lot from my seniors and it’s my duty to teach the younger lot. See, Ronit More is 26, Prasiddh Krishna and T Pradeep are 23 each…. there’s so much time for them to become great prospects for not just Karnataka but India as well. If I was there, one spot would be taken up. This is the best way forward.”
In fact, he didn’t sound fazed even when asked if going unsold in the 2018 Indian Premier League Auction had anything to do with his curtain call. “No, no…. this decision was not because I didn’t get picked for the IPL. You can always play IPL. In fact, I will be playing in T20 leagues. KPL (Karnataka Premier League) and maybe even the IPL if I get the chance. I will certainly continue playing for State Bank of India. They were always motivating me. I also hope to contribute to Karnataka cricket in whatever way I can in the future,” he revealed.
Not that Arvind hasn’t contributed enough already. Besides picking up 186 first-class wickets from 56 games and 57 List A scalps in 41 matches, Arvind has worked extensively with several pacers in the side.
Abhimanyu Mithun vouched that his success this Ranji Trophy season had everything to do with Arvind’s methods. R Vinay Kumar, the skipper and pace spearhead, swears by the man’s ability.
Krishna and Pradeep too have benefitted from Arvind’s teachings, and it was all on show in the Vijay Hazare final. Krishna picked up three wickets, while Pradeep conceded a mere 18 runs in six over to guide Karnataka to their third Vijay Hazare title in five years.
Arvind finished with figures of 7-0-42-0. Not a story-book ending, but he didn’t mind that much. “It is what it is, no. You have good days and okay days. I have had so many great memories with this side. I have no regrets. Forget about my figures, we won the title. That’s the best send-off gift I could ask for. It’s perfect.”
When asked about his finest moment, Arvind picked the twin-treble-triumph seasons, but he did mention the hat-trick against Tamil Nadu during the 2014-15 season.
“I am grateful to my family, my team-mates, my seniors, my friends, my employers and everyone who has been part of this journey. It has been a satisfying one,” he signed off.