Over the past few days, not many cricketers have created as much of a splash as Venkatesh Iyer. The left-handed batter, who has opened the batting for Kolkata Knight Riders and produced two stirring displays, has been the talk of the town and has earned rave reviews for his approach and clarity.
For a lot of people, Venkatesh Iyer’s rise to stardom has come out of the blue. Not many batted an eyelid when KKR acquired the opener and there wasn’t a lot of coverage when Venkatesh Iyer smashed 198 against Punjab in the Vijay Hazare Trophy in 2021.
One man, though, believed in the left-handed batter’s abilities from the outset. So much so that he promoted Venkatesh Iyer to open the batting for Madhya Pradesh during the 2020 edition of the Syed Mushtaq Ali – a decision that has worked wonders, both for the player and more recently for KKR.
Chandrakant Pandit promoted Venkatesh Iyer to open in domestic cricket
During an exclusive chat with Sportskeeda, Chandrakant Pandit – an astute tactician and a veteran coach in the domestic circuit, shed light on the attributes that made Venkatesh Iyer special and the decision to push him higher up the order.
“I promoted Venkatesh Iyer to open in 2020 in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy. He used to bat at No.6 before I came. He is playing at that [IPL] level and it is not a surprise. He has been a very important player for Madhya Pradesh. I am very happy that he has started well in the IPL. He has always been confident in domestic cricket and he always believes in his abilities, irrespective of the situation,” he said.
However, that conversation wasn’t very easy, considering Venkatesh Iyer had never opened prior to the 2020 Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy. However, Pandit also quipped that he eventually convinced Venkatesh Iyer because a player of his ability simply needed to play more balls at the top of the order.
“Earlier, when he batted at 6, he didn’t get enough balls to play so I decided to push him to open. At 6, there are a few restrictions also and I felt that his abilities needed to be utilized better. You must always think about how best to utilize such special players. At first, he was reluctant because he had never faced the new ball and there were obviously a few doubts that had crept in. But then we agreed that he needed to bat at the top because of the ability he has,” Pandit elaborated.
Venkatesh Iyer, despite being just two matches old into his IPL career, has earned effusive praise for his approach, which for an ailing KKR side, has been a breath of fresh air. As far as the batter is concerned, though, it has just been an extension of the fearlessness he has regularly showcased in domestic cricket – something Pandit agreed with.
“His approach has always been very fearless. He has never thought about the consequences of his fearless style and if he will get out playing that way. When playing at the highest level, there is a bit of inexperience and it might take a little time to settle down. Venkatesh, though, has been repeating the things that made him successful in domestic cricket,” he added.
Having said that, Pandit did note that things might get a little tougher for Venkatesh Iyer, considering that he will no longer be the unknown commodity he was at the start of the second phase of the IPL. However, Pandit reckons that the left-handed batter has enough in his arsenal to continue his stellar run of form in the IPL.
“I really hope that he continues this form. His potential has been there for everyone to see now. There will be a few changes now because people know what he can do. There will be more pressure because of the standards he has set for himself but I have full faith that he can continue this run. This was the very trait that prompted me to promote him to open in the first place,” he signed off.
So far, Venkatesh Iyer has perhaps been the player to watch out for in the second half of the Indian Premier League. And, if he continues his pyrotechnics, he could even be in line for an India cap sometime down the line.
For now, he will be concentrating on powering KKR to greater heights, which considering his recent exploits might not be a surprise to the IPL-watching population!
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