Harbhajan Singh believes the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) should release Venkatesh Iyer and acquire him back at the IPL 2023 auction if feasible.
Iyer was retained by KKR ahead of the IPL 2022 auction for ₹8 crore. The left-handed opener, however, did not have a great time in the tournament, aggregating 182 runs in 12 matches at an underwhelming average of 16.54 and an equally poor strike rate of 107.69.
During a discussion on the Star Sports show 'Game Plan', Harbhajan was asked if the Kolkata-based franchise would want to release Venkatesh and try to get him back at a lesser price or do an overall release. He responded:
"They shouldn't do an overall release. You should release him and get him back at a lesser price if possible because the player is destructive. We saw a short trailer in the seven or eight matches he played."
The former KKR player expressed surprise about the franchise not using the seam-bowling all-rounder enough with the ball in this year's IPL. He observed:
"He played amazingly well and he played for India also based on those seven or eight matches. He also bowls along with that. I was surprised they didn't get him to bowl last year (IPL 2022). When we were in Dubai along with him, we made sure that he bowls one or two overs when the match used to get stuck."
Venkatesh bowled just four overs in IPL 2022. He proved quite expensive, conceding 46 runs at an economy of 11.50, and failed to pick up a wicket as well.
"I saw his mentality to be slightly different" - Harbhajan Singh on Venkatesh Iyer
Harbhajan pointed out that Iyer did not seem to be his fearless self in IPL 2022. and stated:
"When a player bowls a few overs, his value increases. The player does not lack anything. I saw his mentality to be slightly different, that he didn't bat that fearlessly."
The former Indian spinner feels Chandrakant Pandit's presence as KKR's head coach should help the Madhya Pradesh cricketer's cause. He elaborated:
"I feel when Chandrakant Pandit comes there, who is also his coach, if he works a little bit on his mentality, then Venkatesh Iyer will be seen playing the same way again. But you can release him and buy him back at a lesser price, that could be a good option."
With the Indian team expecting Iyer to perform a middle-order batter's role in T20I cricket, Venkatesh probably had a muddled mindset in last year's IPL. An extended run at the top of the order under the tutelage of his former state coach should hold him in good stead.
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