There are always a lot of contenders for the openers’ role in India’s limited-overs sides. The same, however, is not true for the seam-bowling all-rounder’s spot. India have to scratch a lot when Hardik Pandya is not fully fit. Among those available, Venkatesh Iyer would rank high.
The fact that can also open the batting makes him the rarest of the rare commodities in Indian cricket. The Madhya Pradesh all-rounder was fast-tracked into the Indian side primarily for two reasons – He had a stellar season for Kolkata Knight Riders in the UAE leg of IPL 2021 and he backed that up with a good show in the Vijay Hazare Trophy. Secondly, Hardik Pandya was battling a back injury and his replacement Shivam Dube was not performing up to the mark.
Because Venkatesh Iyer was picked as the injured Hardik’s replacement, he had to bat in the middle order. Notably, he had caught the eye of the selectors while opening the batting for KKR but the left-hander was not alien to batting in the middle order. In fact, he had batted most of his life at No.5 and 6 while playing for Madhya Pradesh.
Iyer said he knew was not going to open the batting for India as the likes of Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul and Ishan Kishan were already in the side. The lanky cricketer talked about how head coach Rahul Dravid and captain Rohit made clear that he will have to play the finisher’s role in the Indian side.
“When I got into the team, I looked at the team and saw three openers already there. Rohit bhai, KL Rahul and Ishan Kishan were already there. So I knew I am not going to open. And then when I met Rahul sir and he asked me how I used to approach the innings when I used to open and it was communicated to me that I will play the role of a finisher.
Whenever someone gives you a new role, they also give you a cushion. That was done. Rohit bhai and Rahul sir told me that I would be given a string of games to try and execute that role. And once you have the captain and coach’s backing, the job becomes all the easier,” Iyer told CricketNext.
In the 10 matches – eight T20Is and two ODIs – that he played for India, Iyer only bowled 14 overs in total. “To be honest, I did feel a bit under-bowled. But when I think of it from the captain’s perspective, and I have led my state sides in the past, you know when the five bowlers are doing the job then it is not really necessary to use the sixth bowling option. It’s a great cushion to have but when the five bowlers are doing the job then the captain need not look at the sixth bowling option. And that’s what Rohit bhai did. From an individual point of view, I would love to bat 20 overs and bowl my four overs but that really is not possible,” he said.
Despite decent outings with the bat, the left-hander had to make way for Hardik Pandya as India started preparing for Asia Cup and T20 World Cup. Iyer, currently nursing an injury at the NCA, is confident of getting back to the Indian side with consistent performances.