For a player who only recently made his debut in the Indian T20 League with Team Kolkata, Venkatesh Iyer has come a long way and has now even represented India in the short span of three months after his exploits with Team Kolkata. 

Tipped to be the next top all-rounder for India, Iyer reflected on the grind of domestic cricket, his ambition to play red-ball cricket for India and his desire to win the T20 World Cup in Australia next year during an exclusive chat with SportsAdda. Here are some of the excerpts from the interview.

From an unknown player to an Elite Retained player in three months, how does it feel?

Venkatesh Iyer: Feels great. It is a satisfying feeling when you get retained. I’m very happy to play again for Kolkata, the franchise that gave me my big break. So, I’m very happy. 

Last three months have been a dream period for you. Hasn't it?

Venkatesh Iyer: Yes, it’s been good. I have been working a lot on my batting and bowling. So, it feels good when you start to see some signs of you getting good.

You had an impressive debut in the Indian T20 League. What kind of effort did it take to reach there?

Venkatesh Iyer: I underwent all the struggles that a domestic cricketer experiences. Irrespective of whether he plays the Indian T20 League or not, domestic cricket in itself is very competitive. So, I have been working a lot in all three formats of the game and I think getting my basics right in domestic cricket helped me to put my best foot forward in the Indian T20 League.

Who do you give credit to for your recent breakthrough? 

Venkatesh Iyer: My parents definitely. They stuck with me and supported me in every decision, so huge credit goes to them. Also, one of my nutritionists and a close friend Suraj Thakuriya has been very influential in transforming my body. 

Is it only T20, or do you aspire to pursue red-ball cricket also?

Venkatesh Iyer: Definitely, a complete cricketer is someone who shows consistency across all formats. So, it’s important for me to do well in the Ranji Trophy this season and I’m really looking forward to it. 

How has life been after your India debut?

Venkatesh Iyer: I think, I have a lot of clarity on how to go about things. Obviously, I have clarity on my role and how to look at things in a certain way. Also now I have clarity on how to play for the country and come back to the state where it gives me the responsibility to play and win the domestic tournament.

Now there will be a lot of expectations from you. So, how do you plan to handle it? 

Venkatesh Iyer: I don’t look at it that way. I have never felt the burden of expectations. I’ll just go out there and try to execute my plans and do well. The other things that happen in the field are not in my control. So I look to control the controllable and do what I have been doing and try and put my best foot forward.

We know you were a good student. How and when did you decide to take the plunge into cricket and what was your parent's reaction to it?

Venkatesh Iyer: Cricket was my first love. I have always been serious about the game since the gully-cricket times. I’m happy to be given the opportunity to play professionally. It was very courageous of my parents to allow me to pursue this as a career option and I’m grateful to them for having allowed me to play this game.

What goals have you set for yourself? 

Venkatesh Iyer: I look at things in the short term. So, I look at the things that are in my hand right now. My current prerogative is to play well for the state and win the Vijay Hazare Trophy. Obviously, there are plans for me to learn my skills as a batsman, bowler, and work on my physical fitness but my current goal is to win the Vijay Hazare Trophy.

You've shared the dressing room with stalwarts like Rahul Dravid, Rohit Sharma and Eoin Morgan among others. What have you learned under them and how did they guide you?

Venkatesh Iyer: I would try to pick their brains about how they prepare, their thoughts before and heading into a game. So, I have learned a lot personally. As you mentioned these are absolute stalwarts and legends of the game. Once you’re a part of that setup, there is a lot of warmth in their reception. When I went into that dressing room, Rohit (Sharma) bhai gave me a wonderful welcome, and Rahul (Dravid) sir treated me very well and told me that I truly deserve this (opportunity). So, it feels good when legends appreciate your work and welcome you in their side. I have never felt out of place and always believed that I would be able to contribute to their victories.

Are your goals set for the T20 World Cup 2022 in Australia?

Venkatesh Iyer: As I mentioned earlier, I don’t see things from a long-term perspective. The only thing I have in mind is this tournament (Vijay Hazare Trophy). But yes, there’s hope at the back of my mind that if I get to play there then I can make the country win. And you don’t want to just play for your country, you want to make them win tournaments and matches. And who would not want to be on a side that wins the World Cup right? So I want to be a part of that squad and hopefully, contribute to the Indian team.

Author: Sandilya Garimella

Featured photo: Dibyangshu SARKAR / AFP