Off-field controversies ravaged Kerala cricket for the better part of last season and the performances of Kerala teams on the field was nothing to crow about. But amidst the mediocre show came the good performance of the Kerala under-19 squad which created history by qualifying for the elite group in the Cooch Behar Trophy.
All-rounder Vinoop S. Manoharan was the architect of Kerala's good run in the Cooch Behar Trophy. Vinoop scored 545 runs and took 26 wickets with his off-spin and the performance earned him the Kerala Cricket Association's S.K. Nair award for the Cricketer of the Year.
It was a tremendous achievement for this hard working cricketer who was making his maiden appearance for Kerala. Vinoop scored three centuries with highest score of 114 against Gujarat and was rock solid in the middle order. His other centuries came against Andhra (107) and Goa (101 not out) respectively in Thalassery.
However, despite scoring a lot of runs Vinoop rates his eight-wicket haul against Vidharbha as more satisfying. Surprisingly, he considers himself as a bowler who can bat. It is a modest assessment considering the fact that he scored 601 runs in all formats in the whole of last season.
“I am basically a bowler and I am always looking to improve my bowling. My ability to bat is just a bonus for me,” said the player who was also part of the Kerala under-25 squad last season. The second year economics student of SH College, Thevara took an important decision to shift his base from Bangalore to Ernakulam and it changed his cricket career.
Vinoop first learned the nuances of the game at Christ Nagar Academy in Thiruvananthapuram under the tutelage of the late S. Rajesh. His father's transfer took him to Bangalore.
Vinoop was selected to the Karnataka under-13 and under-15 squads but didn't get any opportunity to play and that left him frustrated. “I realised that there was no point in warming the benches and I decided to shift my base to Ernakulam, I had heard about Swantons Cricket Club and when I approached them they were ready to take me,” he said.
He played for Swantons and his progression to the Kerala under-19 squad was natural after his consistent show in the inter-district and inter-zonal matches. He impressed in the under-19 preparatory tour to Sri Lanka and was a revelation in the Cooch Behar Trophy.
“It was a dream run for me. I was in good form with both bat and ball. I made good use of the opportunities I got and was happy that my performance enabled the team to qualify,” he said about his performance in the Cooch Behar Trophy.
The award came as a pleasant surprise, he said. Vinoop is not ready to rest on his laurels. Now in the State under-22 squad, Vinoop wants to contribute and help his team qualify for the elite group.
The youngster has set a realistic ambition of making his Ranji Trophy debut this season and is working hard to realise it.