Then- Kapil Dev, Now- Hardik Pandya, Future – Venkatesh Iyer. The generational fast-bowling all-rounders that India has been producing are something that is helping the team get a correct balance.
But only they know what they have to go through to maintain equal frequency with both bat as well as the ball.
Venkatesh Iyer – a name that not many were aware of till the second half of the IPL 2021. But the UAE leg of the covid-hit tournament changed fortunes for him and with Hardik Pandya struggling with his fitness, ‘Venky Iyer’ was in the minds of almost every cricket fan.
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His hard work of years paid off as right after his maiden IPL season, where he scored 370 runs, he was drafted into the Indian side as a net bowler for the T20 World Cup 2021. But it didn’t take him long to enter the main scene as in the first T20I series right after the tournament, Venkatesh Iyer was in the Indian setup and had a decent debut series.
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A month later, Venkatesh Iyer was on the flight to South Africa, where he made his ODI debut as well. But his best came in the home T20I series against West Indies as he played all three games and played the role of finisher perfectly as he scored runs at a strike rate of 179.24 and also picked two wickets.
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Venkatesh’s Iyer debut season with KKR in the IPL impressed the management a lot as they made a bold decision and retained him ahead of Shubman Gill. The decision has had his criticisms as well but the all-rounder choose to answer them in its own way as in just a short span of time he became the lynchpin of KKR’s batting lineup.
As in every cricketer’s career ups are complimented equally well with the downs and Venkatesh Iyer had to go through the same. It’s been more than a year since he donned the Indian jersey and the main reason behind that was the freak injury he faced during the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy 2022/23.
Venkatesh Iyer was on the top of his game in the domestic league as he had piled up 189 runs at an impressive strike rate of 161.53 in the first four games. But ahead of the fifth game he fell down a staircase at the team hotel and broke his ankle which forced him to miss cricket for quite a good time.
However, he stood tall against all the odds and made a rollicking comeback in the IPL 2023. Venkatesh Iyer had his best season in the league as he amassed 404 runs and became only the second centurion for the KKR after Brendon McCullum, who hit a century in the opening game of the league in 2008.
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But according to Venkatesh Iyer, this wasn’t his best season. In an exclusive interview with CricketAddictor,the all-rounder talked about when it will be his best season, how he is fine-tuning his skills in bowling, camaraderie with Rinku Singh, adapting to different roles, his future goals, and more.
Here are excerpts from the interviews of Venkatesh Iyer
You batted with a lot of responsibility this season for KKR, give us an insight on what contributed to your success?
I think when I asked to bat at No.3 because Shreyas was not there. I had to play the role of anchor in most of the matches. It was important for me to understand the situation and be aware of what I was trying to do.
We have not seen you bowling for a while. When can we see you bowling next? With the growing advent of all-rounders, are you working on your bowling so that you contribute consistently with both bat and ball?
I’m 100% fit and ready to bowl. It’s just that with the impact player rule it got just a little difficult for all-rounders to bowl more. We already had Andre Russell in our team and also Nitish Rana was there so I got to bowl very less but I’m working on my bowling a lot.
How was your camaraderie this season with Rinku Singh? Where do you see him in the next couple of years?
I think he’s one of the most fun-loving guys in the KKR setup. Extremely talented and a great guy to hang around with and I had a lot of fun with him. Definitely, he’s a future superstar as he has shown time and time why he can be relied on in terms of finishing and anchoring the innings. He is such a dynamic player and I really feel that he’s gonna be the next big thing in Indian cricket.
Since the last three years, you have played under three different captains at KKR. Under whom you enjoyed the most?
All the captains brought different things to the table. Morgan was very composed and had that international experience. Shreyas is a very vibrant captain. He’s willing to take those crucial risks. Nitish is the player’s captain and I really enjoyed playing under all three of them. To pick one would be very difficult for me.
IPL 2023 was your best season in the IPL so far with your century against MI being the highlight of your season. Which areas you would be looking to improve for the next edition and what are your goals from here on?
Results really don’t matter. The best season would come when KKR would win even if I have contributed only 250-300 runs but KKR wins the title that would be my best season. So yeah, the only goal would be to make KKR win irrespective of the position I play, be it opening or No.3 or maybe even finishing. I really want to make KKR win.
You recently met your childhood hero Rajnikanth Sir. How was your experience meeting the Thalaiva? Also how big a role he played in your career?
It was an unbelievable experience. I was at a loss of words. Talking to him, I really didn’t know how to have a conversation. But it was amazing to be in his presence, to see him in person, being so humble and down the earth. He’s been an amazing inspiration for me all throughout. Whenever I’m down I look at his old movies that gives me a lot of inspiration.
You surprised many after you made an appearance in the expert panel for Star Sports during the playoffs of IPL. How did that happen and how was your experience sharing the same stage with some greats of the game?
I had nothing to do, I was free at that time. It was fun to be in Star Sports. Look at cricket from the other side. It’s basically calling the game rather then reacting to the ball coming your way. It was fun, you get to dress up well and you get to say things that you feel you analyse as a cricketer.
Nitish Rana was tactically sound as a captain this year. Where do you rate him as a skipper?
He’s an amazing captain. He’s got that leadership ability, the captaincy tag was given to him this year but he has always been a dressing-room leader. To see him do well was no surprise to me as I always knew that he has the ability to lead the side and take centre stage as captain. He did exceedingly well this year.
You were an opener then became a finisher for India then an opener again for KKR. How difficult is it to keep switching roles like that? And do you change the way you practice, the way you think?
As a professional cricketer, you always have be to flexible. You have to understand that you can be asked to bat at any given role. To finish, you need a certain skill set and to open you need a different skill set. But as cricketers, we all practice that and I think huge importance in that preparation has to be given to the red ball. Playing red-ball cricket makes you understand how you can gauge the swing of the ball and how you can gauge bounce on tricky wickets. I think the red ball plays a huge role in completing your skillset as a cricketer.
What are you more comfortable with – having a set role as an opener, having a set role as a finisher, or just being a floater?
The best job is to be the floater as that gives you many options and also gives you options to explore as a cricketer because you always want to grow and be on the receiving end of new challenges. So I think being the floater always helps and I have really enjoyed it.
Source : Daily Hunt