An adventurous climb: the making of Venkatesh Iyer
Although not a regular member of the Kolkata Knight Riders, Harbhajan Singh had an important responsibility as a mentor to a young man described by his family as calm and eager to learn.
It was Singh who thought Venkatesh Iyer could learn from Virat Kohli and strike up a conversation between the two after the RCB game. Besides hunting down the brains of the best drummers, Venkatesh really enjoys analyzing the details of the game.
He's a nerd and in Madhya Pradesh, where he grew up, his trainers adapt his habits to the “typical South Indian” stereotype.
His percussion act as an alter ego of personality off the field. However, his game relies on excellent club swing, limited foot movement, aggressive intention and hitting the ball. At the McCullum. Morgan-esque. A writing style that naturally matches KKR's leadership approach.
Venkatesh pulverized the Royal Challengers Bangalore bowlers on their IPL debut, scoring an unbeaten 27-ball 41 to help KKR score the 93-point goal in just 10 overs. He called with 53 out of 30 balls to give his side a rare victory over the Mumbai Indians. His club coach Dinesh Sharma was not surprised by his performance, but satisfied nonetheless. “The confidence with which he slammed a first ball six off Trent Boult... Mazaa aa gaya."
Venkatesh looked so comfortable in the first two games that a significant change in his racquet didn't seem to bother him as much as he should.
A 6ft 4in chassis - long enough not to be overshadowed by its idol and best friend, Andre Russell - has its drawbacks. To tie one up he had to use cricket bats with bodies an inch longer than normal for most of his senior cricket career.
A four-year partnership with bat maker BAS Vampire had worked well enough to earn points that could help them secure an IPL deal. But a big cash deal from SS (Sareen Sports Industries) just days before KKR camp started in March of that year forced him to change his loyalty and play with a racquet he didn't have. had too long to acclimate.
He has done little to change his method or his results.His aggressive approach saw him score, including 198 in a 50 game against a Punjab attack with Sandeep Sharma, Siddharth Kaul, Mayank Markande, Barinder Sran and Harpreet Brar. He was also responsible for his inconsistencies - which slowed his progress.
KKR head coach Brendon McCullum has recognized this problem and has always supported Venkatesh.
"He's one of those players who might end up being a little bit inconsistent. With the way he plays, the stroke-making he possesses, but he's got the ability to win games on his own when he's on," he had said. "He might be one of those who goes 100, 100, 0 and 0 - the Adam Gilchrist sort of players. He's highly intelligent as well for someone who is relatively inexperienced."
However, the wait for this support has taken a long time. After being selected by an IPL franchise at the age of 26, he was almost ready to play before the tournament stalled in April due to an increase in COVID-19 cases.
He wasn't sure when his next opportunity would come. His mother Usha had the same question for him from the beginning:
"When will they pick you?”
"Two days before the game, I asked him again (when will he be picked)," Usha says of the conversation with her son.
Out of frustration or uncertainty, Venkatesh didn't have much to say, although he had a good idea of the opportunity ahead.
“Don't keep asking mummy, I can't tell you anything. Joh bhi ho, aap dekh lena," he responded.
When he finally made his debut, his name was not revealed in the lottery. Usha, an administrative assistant at Apollo Hospital in Indore, assumed her son wasn't playing when she got home from work.
It wasn't until she got home that she heard the news. It made her nervous. As she walked through her house on the tour, she remembered a conversation with a taxi driver she had met when her son was only seven months old when he came to Dewas from Bhopal.
"I was in the front seat and the taxi driver kept looking at him. When we were getting off, he told me 'yeh apka naam bahut roshan karega, aapko isko jo bhi karna hai, karne dena' (he's going to make you very proud, just back him in whatever he wants to do)."
It was a conversation that didn't get a lot of thought, but she was with her over the years. Over the years she has been in a difficult position several times - whether it be playing sports for Venkatesh or making sure he is focused on his studies.
Usha discovered Venkatesh's interest in sports at the age of 11. "Once India and Australia were playing. When Ganguly got out, he was so upset that eventually, he got a fever. That's when I felt he was too involved in cricket. I told him that till he turned 18, I would support him. But after that, he had to drive his career."
Fear that cricket would hamper her studies was as troubling to Usha as the thought of responding to her loved ones about the decisions she had made about her son.
"For us, there are two musts - you must study and you must have a [stable] job," she says. "Udyogam purusha lakshanam (doing a job is the duty of a man) is a saying. When a child is born, you keep thinking about what you want the child to do. I couldn't always talk about it with others but I always wanted him to choose a different path. No one in our family was playing sports."
It was Sanjay Jagdale, the former MPCA president, who convinced Usha to send her son to play cricket. Venkatesh was eventually inducted into the Khanuja Club in Indore where he appeared as a wicket hitter under Sheikh Sadiq. Progress in the early years was gradual, while attention was not completely diverted from his studies.
In 2014, Dinesh, coach of the Maharaja Yeshwantrao Cricket Club (MYCC), saw him beat him in a U19 competition. He was convinced that Venkatesh had a talent for reaching greater heights. The United States tried to convince his parents to move him to better clubs and concentrate fully on the intermediate level game. Speed.
The movement worked wonders. This has helped his employers to pursue his passion. "Once he got the job, he left his studies and started focusing on cricket."
Despite graduating from the US team and winning several racket and ball games, he was consistently added to the roster until Madhya Pradesh's head coach Chandrakant Pandit promoted him to the first round of the heats last season. However, the COVID-19 hiatus helped him hone his skills after seeing an IPL team at work and better prepare for the podium in the UAE.
"He came back and worked even harder with Chandrakant Pandit. Despite the COVID restrictions, they kept practising, working on the game. He rejoined the side with a lot of new ideas on what he could do."
The left-hander's two innings so far in the IPL have drawn a lot of attention, but his coach still has some weaknesses in his division.
"For the last seven years that I've been coaching him, I've been wanting him to get fitter," Dinesh says. "Even against Mumbai Indians, it was the cramps that got him. He got tired, couldn't move his legs and got bowled. Hopefully, being around such high-quality players, he will be inspired to work harder on his fitness and become a better player."
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