On this day: With 63-ball 120, Paul Valthaty returns from the dark

Written by Devendra Pandey

Updated: April 13, 2020 4:26:47 pm

Paul Valthaty of Kings XI Punjab celebrates his century against Chennai Super Kings during an IPL match played at PCA stadium in Mohali (Express Photo by Kamleshwar Singh).

For close to nine years, Chandrasekar Valthaty hasn’t talked about the partial loss of vision in his son Paul’s right eye. He feared it would hurt his son’s cricketing career. On Wednesday, the 27-year-old Mumbai batsman laid those fears to rest — conclusively.

With a 63-ball unbeaten 120, including 19 fours and two sixes, he took his team Kings XI Punjab to victory, chasing down Chennai Super Kings’s 188 with five balls to spare.

“I always knew my big day would come, and it finally has, even if it has taken this long,” said Paul Valthaty, talking to The Indian Express.

However, it’s not something his parents ever imagined they would one day live to see, having received Paul as he returned from the 2002 under-19 World Cup in New Zealand with a bandaged eye. A short delivery from a Bangladesh new-ball bowler on a dicey wicket on the outskirts of Auckland had hit Paul in the eye. The family that has several doctors and engineers thought Paul would have to give up cricket and pursue academics.

“The ball bounced unexpectedly and hit me straight in the eye,” said Paul. “It took me at least a couple of years to adjust and get back to my best.” Valthaty remembers his son struggling whenever he attempted a square-cut.

Paul turned to Nari Contractor, who had faced similar trauma after getting hit on the head by a ball during the 1962 tour to West Indies. “Mr Contractor was the first to spot him and insisted he would be back to his best soon. Contractor passed on a lot of advice,” said Valthaty.

However, it was hard not to get depressed as Paul career went into decline even as his peers in the Mumbai circuit climbed to higher honours. A solitary ODI in 2006 and a handful of T20 matches were all he managed in domestic cricket — till today’s match. A technically perfect knock, it got him both the Man of the Match award and this season’s top run-getters’ Orange Cap.

Kings XI Punjab teammate Abhishek Nayar, considered one of Valthaty’s biggest backers and the one who brought Paul to the attention of his current IPL owners, has seen Paul struggle over the past two years. “He tried his luck in Rajasthan for a couple of years.”

Among those watching, and celebrating, today was Balwinder Singh Sandhu, the India under-19 coach when Valthaty was hit in the eye. “We always knew he was a natural talent. And he has proved us right,” said Sandhu.

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