Who is Venkatesh Iyer?
An MBA in Finance and a fan of Rajinikanth, as he himself told ESPNcricinfo? Or a swashbuckling opener who helped the Kolkata Knight Riders topple their IPL campaign? Or an average pace that has been selected as net pitcher for India at the next T20 World Cup?
Win the powerplay, win the game. It’s the adage that the sluggish terrains of Sharjah gave birth to the 2021 IPL.
Before Wednesday, teams that have scored more power play points have won eight of nine games in Sharjah this season. The reason behind this being that once the ball gets a bit softer and the pitch expands, scoring becomes difficult, and whatever teams are building up in the power play, turns out to be decisive. .
Come in Qualifier 2, the Delhi Capitals and the Knight Riders were aware of this.
After asking the Capitals to strike, Shikhar Dhawan and Prithvi Shaw tried to maximize their team’s chances on the power play. They took them to 32 for no four-overs loss before Varun Chakravarthy trapped Shaw lbw with his first ball. Marcus Stoinis was sent to No.3 to grab some quick points, but Varun and Lockie Ferguson didn’t let that happen, and the Capitals were only able to pull it 38-1 in the first six overs.
After that, Sharjah’s slowdown set in and the Capitals finished with a lower-than-par 135 for 5.
Now it was the responsibility of Shubman Gill and Iyer to give the Knight Riders a good start. Gill started off with a cover of the chase’s first ball, but after that it was all Iyer. The southpaw swept R Ashwin behind the square leg, threw Axar Patel off a wide long and stroked Avesh Khan through the midwicket. All with such ease and nonchalance.
The breathtaking shot, however, came against Kagiso Rabada. Rabada has not had a good season but he is still Rabada. Iyer, however, jumped out of his crease as if he was facing a dibbly-dobbler in a domestic match. Yes it was a slower bullet but Iyer got the shot and sent it into the stands of the deep midwicket.
Although Gill only scored one limit in the power play, Iyer’s assault meant the Knight Riders were at 51 to no loss after six overs. It was half the battle won.
Capitals coach Ricky Ponting said so after the game. “The power play in both sets probably made the difference in the game. I don’t think we have enough in our power play with the stick. I think we were 37 years old.  at the end of our power play, which was probably eight or ten points away from where we wanted to be and the score against that kind of wicket.
“And then the conditions changed drastically from the first innings to the second. Probably the first ten retakes of their innings at batting when they had a new ball and the dew was on the ground certainly made the batting a lot easier. opening today for KKR I think they did a great job and I think they actually found a really good player there at Venkatesh Iyer. He looks like someone who could be a great player for Kolkata and maybe even India in the future. “
By the time Iyer came out, he had led the Knight Riders to 96 in 12.2 overs; his 55 runs on 41 balls were as sublime as they could have been on this ground.
This left Hussey gushing out of him. “He hit the ball off the first ball superbly. Some of those big sixes he hit actually changed the tempo of the game and put us in a winning position. He’s just a top class player. He’s tall, a Stephen Fleming clone, I believe. He has a great future in the game. “
Iyer was not a starter when the 2021 IPL kicked off in India. In fact, he hasn’t had a single home game. But after arriving in the United Arab Emirates, he scored 320 points with an average of 40 and a strike rate of 125; only Ruturaj Gaikwad (407) scored more points during this period. Iyer is also the only one to have scored half a century at all three locations – Sharjah, Dubai and Abu Dhabi – in the United Arab Emirates.
During the post-match presentation, he was asked to compare playing national cricket in India with practicing your craft against the who’s who of world cricket in the IPL.
“There is no difference, I think,” he replied. “I played the way I wanted to play and I am extremely delighted that the management asked me to play this way. I don’t see any difference in what happened in the [Syed] Mushtaq Ali [Trophy], and the first class, and what’s going on here. There is a little more pressure but if you know how to handle it it is a wonderful place for all of us to play cricket.
“I think for the last two games I was restricting myself. I just wanted to be there until the end. Then I realized it wasn’t me. Thinking that I would be there until the end, I was losing the present. So I wanted to stay in the moment and convert the bad balls into limits and once I got the momentum I thought that was the way to go. which I played in the IPL and want to continue. “
And what about his call as a net caster for India? Is he happy with it? “Absolutely, but I don’t think about it. I have one game left and I’m completely focused on this game. Of course, I heard the news today but I didn’t really think about it because [there was] a big game tonight. So I wanted to stay completely focused on that and that will be the case the next day as well. “
When asked if his days at a company were over, Iyer didn’t wait for the question to end. “Absolutely. I don’t want to go back.”
He doesn’t need it because he belongs here.