Demystifying Venkatesh Iyer's meteoric rise

Venkatesh Iyer: a management graduate turned cricketer
Venkatesh Iyer: a management graduate turned cricketer

Imagine you are in your mid-20s and you just secured a job at Deloitte after completing your MBA. Meanwhile, you are part of your state's Ranji Trophy team and your playing career is in the doldrums.

While you are just a newbie in cricket in academia, you have already left Chartered Accountancy in the past and the Deloitte job could help you settle down professionally. You have to choose either of the two and once done, your childhood dream of playing for the country could be traded with a well-paid and stable desk job. In such situations, what would an average Joe do?

Venkatesh Iyer, Kolkata Knight Riders' (KKR) rescuer in IPL 2021 and retention for IPL 2022, faced a similar dilemma four years ago. A month back, when he was retained by the franchise for a whopping β‚Ή8 crore ahead of the mega auction, he became the new poster boy of the "sports over education" debate. Iyer, who decided to send the "I won't be able to join the company" email to continue pursuing his passion, faced several predicaments throughout his cricketing career.

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The baby steps

Venkatesh Iyer, the youngest child born in a typical Telugu-Brahmin family, was not a childhood prodigy when it came to cricket. Born to a father who worked as a marketing manager and a mother who worked as a nurse in a hospital, academics were the only medium of earning basic necessities of life.

He was also naturally good at studies and cricket was not his first choice to carve a career ahead.

Nobody from Iyer family had a career in sports before. Despite that, his family kept supporting and encouraging him.
Nobody from Iyer family had a career in sports before. Despite that, his family kept supporting and encouraging him.

As he grew up, he developed interest in the financial world and started preparing for Chartered Accountancy. Cricket was a part of his life, but it existed in bits and pieces.

As fate would have it, the slow but steady steps started to bear fruit when he was selected for Madhya Pradesh's Under-25 team. By that time, the idea of becoming a Chartered Accountant (CA) was put into the back burner. Cricket had taken the front seat and an aspiring CA had turned into an aspiring cricketer.

Master of "opportunity cost"

Iyer's life is characterized by several contradictory dilemmas. When you are good at many things, switching to other safe avenues in life becomes a cakewalk. Statistically speaking, any profession in India is less competitive than playing cricket full time where in chances of success is meager.

If one has studied the concept of "opportunity cost" in finance, Iyer has mastered the concept since he was always making some bold choices at the cost of others. And mind you, every choice has the potential to outgrow your own imagination.

When he said that it was courageous of his parents to allow him to play cricket, he pointed to the fact that it is an extremely difficult choice to make for a middle-class parent.

It was almost like rolling a dice in gambling without knowing the end result. And as per game theory, gambling is not always about luck, it is also about taking shrewd and calculated risks.

Conquering the many dilemmas

While he was playing for Madhya Pradesh's Under-25 team, his game was not picking up like it should have. He was halfway through his 20s and had debuted for his state's Ranji Trophy side.

But major success, like an IPL contract or a national team call-up, eluded him. Simultaneously, he enrolled for an MBA course at one of the prestigious institutions in Indore and hustled between cricket and a management degree.

On weekdays, he was practicing and attending classes, while on weekends he was traveling to and fro to Chennai to play a club match.

The man finally comes around.
The man finally comes around.

Fortunately, he sat for campus placement and got selected at Deloitte - a US-based MNC. During the interview, when he was asked to make a choice between job and cricket, his reply was about the uncertainty that lies in the sport.

The idea behind securing a job was to create a backup option since in cricket, there comes an inflection point after which either you end up at the same level or you go up and taste phenomenal success. Iyer's inflection point had arrived and despite having a well-paid cricketing career, he was seeking a balance in his life. Eventually, he broke the shackles within himself and decided to back his own instincts and abilities.

Within a span of two years after rejecting that Deloitte offer, he donned the India jersey against New Zealand in a T20I in Jaipur. Life took a full circle and after juggling between various choices, he went on to debut for KKR and India within four months.

Don't put all your eggs in one basket

Although this is famous investment advice, its application to other areas can't be totally phased out. That's where Iyer was extremely astute since he always kept all his choices open and made the right moves when the situation demanded.

He was dedicated towards cricket as well as earning a degree and was always aware about the ground and harsh realities of a career in sports. Considering the competition and challenges involved, Iyer was circumspect about his surroundings and diversified his career in the best possible manner.

Today, Iyer's story may look like "rags to riches" in no time, but it has taken 13 long years to arrive at this level. Those years made him what he is today. He has lived through all those dilemmas every single day, he has conquered them all like the best artist who crafts the masterpiece brick by brick. All those years, education gave him the right kind of mindset and approach and he carefully applied every accounting or management principle in his choices.

When asked what his words of wisdom were for people engulfed between various choices, he succinty said:

"Choices will always be there. Making a choice is always easy, but accepting that it might bring positives and negatives with it is tough. If you are ready to accept the negatives because you own up to the choice, then you will look at things from a different perspective. And don't just be involved in what you do, be committed to it."

Edited by Samya Majumdar
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