Head coach Rahul Dravid said Indian team management had challenged Venkatesh Iyer to take on the role of finisher in the T20I format and they were pleased with the all-rounder’s progress so far.
Venkatesh Iyer, who made his India debut against New Zealand after last year’s T20 World Cup, has struggled at No. 6 in the Indian team. The left-hander shone in India’s 3-0 win over the West Indies, scoring 92 runs in 3 matches including two match-winning knocks – 18-ball 33 in 2nd T20I, 19-ball 35 non in 3rd out T20I.
Iyer showed guts and composure going at-bat when India struggled in both games but made key positions with Suryakumar Yadav winning the Player of the Series award.
Dravid acknowledged that Iyer will play the role of an opener for the Kolkata Knight Riders in the Indian Premier League, but he will get an opportunity to fight in the middle division and play the role of a finisher for Team India. The Asian giants have been looking for a replacement for Hardik Pandya, who is not fighting for senior call-ups as he spends time on the sidelines with a recurring back injury.
“I know he has a different role (opener) for his IPL franchise, but we’re very aware of what kind of role he’s filling in our situation … Obviously our top 3 isn’t really a spot, because that one.” guys established themselves in the top three and did very well,” said Dravid after India’s 3-0 win over the West Indies.
“So we challenged him, we gave him the role to hit in that position. Every time he improved, he got better. That is really gratifying.”
Iyer has also come in as the 6th bowler, giving India an option ahead of the T20 World Cup. Hardik’s inability to bowl, even when available for selection in the recent past, has been an issue for India but the world No. 1’s T20I side have tried opinions on the role.
In the final T20I, when Deepak Chahar hobbled away in the third over after suffering a hamstring injury, Venkatesh filled in and took 2/23 in his 2.1 overs. In his burgeoning career, Iyer has won 3 wickets and bowled almost 7 overs for India in T20Is.
“The role of a sixth bowler is something you always have to play. But in a situation like today, where unfortunately we lost Deepak, you have to play a few critical overs,” said Dravid.
“That’s the role of a sixth bowler. If you have a good game and the captain doesn’t need you, he doesn’t need you.
“If he needs you, he will probably need you at a critical time. And I think he’s done a really good job for us, really good streaks he’s had,” he added.
Dravid supports the struggling Ishan Kishan
Meanwhile, Dravid also backed Ishan Kishan, who had a mediocre series against the West Indies. Ishan received team management support to open the innings in the absence of KL Rahul and managed 71 runs over the 3 T20Is, but the Mumbai Indians star didn’t seem at all comfortable in the middle.
Dravid endorsed the IPL 2022 auction’s most expensive player, saying: “Ishan was chosen for his potential and performance. Yes, you can’t specify that many games. Sometimes it’s a combination, sometimes it’s injuries.”
“Never give a player the same number of games over and over again, there can’t be a number set in stone whether it’s seven games or six.”
“Whether it’s Ruturaj Gaikwad today or Avesh Khan, we don’t judge them by a game. They are here because they perform and deserve to be here,” said the former captain.
“We like to give players confidence in the group in and around the squad and that they won’t be judged on a game. It’s always a difficult balance. But in the larger group, I’m not worried about one-on-one fights in the series. It’s going to happen in this format,” added Dravid.