The 15th edition of the Indian Premier League has reached its final stage. Four teams have qualified for the playoffs, and in a couple of days, we will have a champion of the highly competitive tournament. We saw several power-packed performances from players and some nail-biting finishes, but few cricketers could not deliver up to their reputation and struggled in the middle.
Kolkata Knight Riders all-rounder Venkatesh Iyer, who was retained by the franchise for a whopping INR 8 Crore ahead of the tournament, failed to live up to expectations and struggled to provide a solid start to his side. The 27-year-old entered the tournament after an impressive performance with bat and ball in the T20I series against West Indies and Sri Lanka, but he was far from his best in the Indian Premier League.
He could only manage to score 182 runs in 12 games with an average of 16.55. His unbeaten fifty against Mumbai Indians was the highest score in the tournament, and he ended up wicketless after getting to bowl only four overs in two-month-long tournament. Few cricket pundits even claimed that Iyer's struggle at the top-order was one of the significant reasons why Kolkata could not do well in the tournament and finished seventh in the points table.
However, Iyer's horrific IPL campaign is now over, and he has been selected for the five-match T20 series against South Africa, starting next month (June). To prove his worth as an all-rounder amidst the growing stature of Hardik Pandya will not be a cakewalk for Iyer. He needs to add plenty of runs under his belt and will have to earn management's trust with the bowl.
Amidst all, SportsTiger reached to out the dynamic all-rounder to understand his perspective of his performance in IPL 2022, the reason behind KKR ending up in the bottom four and his quest to make the cut in Asia Cup 2022 and T20 World Cup 2022.
Excerpts of the interaction are as follows:
Question: Congratulations on your selection in the T20 squad for the South Africa series. What will be your approach for five-match series after a not-so-good outing in IPL 2022?
Answer: My approach has always been towards the proper process and taking everything with a positive mindset. It will always be the same. I'll train as I always do and will look to contribute in whatever way is possible to the team's victory.
Question: What was the main reason behind your not-up-to the mark performance in the Indian Premier League?
Answer: I tried my best to perform well, and my process and approach were correct. I don't have any regret as I did whatever I could do. But, I'll confess that the results were a bit disappointing as they didn't come in our favour. But we are hopeful that we will do well in upcoming seasons as we have the right set of players in our squad.
Question: You have been regarded as a quality all-rounder in the domestic circuit. But why didn't we see you rolling your arms much in the IPL? Why are skippers not trusting you with full four overs? Are we going to see that happening in the upcoming series also?
Answer: Kolkata had the five-set bowlers, including Andre Russell to support them in death overs. Russell was amongst the leading wicket-takers in the tournament. I could have bowled, but this is what happens when the skipper has the option of five to six quality bowlers, he is bound to go with the regular ones. According to the situation of the game, the skipper always goes with the regular ones instead of all-rounders.
Question: Tell us something about Shreyas Iyer, the skipper. What was his approach during challenging times in IPL?
Answer: Shreyas is a perfect leader any team would wish. He has the right mindset and right attitude to lead the squad in such a highly competitive tournament. He always talks to every player and tries to know their approach towards the game. Results don't mean that leader is not fit for the role, he will surely bounce back, and Kolkata will do well in the upcoming season under his leadership.
Question: What didn't work well for KKR? You guys started well, but inconsistency was a significant factor. Kindly shed some light on that.
Answer: We played excellent cricket throughout the tournament, but I accept that we were not consistent. It does happen with quality teams in such a big game. At times, groups emerge victorious, and at the time, they are pushed deep. But, players are too optimistic, and management has also bestowed a lot of trust on every player in the squad. We are confident that we will do well in the next season and will finish in the top four.
Question: Rinku Singh emerged as the match-winner towards the end of the tournament. Tell us something about him. How does he prepare, and how is he like off-the-field?
Answer: It was an excellent opportunity for me to play with Rinku Singh. He is such an outstanding cricketer and a wonderful human being. He carries too much positivity whatever he does. He always wants to contribute, be it fielding or batting. The whole squad and management are excited to have such a player in our camp. I hope he wins more games for us in the next season.
Question: How difficult it was coping with scorching heat. Tell us something about the process players go through to deal with such heat intensity.
Answer: Indeed, the heat made the competition more intense. But we were expecting such temperature when we were coming for the tournament. It was not easy to cope, but cricketers are trained to perform and survive such weather and keep delivering results. I want to thank the support staff who played a significant role in helping all of us to stay relevant in the game despite the challenging temperature.
Question: Asia Cup and T20 World Cup are two marquee tournaments in this year's calendar. What will be your process to make the cut into the squad?
Answer: I never train or perform to get into any squad, be it ICC tournament, national team or domestic competitions. I focus on scoring more runs, taking wickets or bowling economic overs and saving runs or taking catches in the field. I am not neglecting that representing the nation in such a tournament is an honour, but it only stays at the back of my mind. Never the driving force.
Question: Hardik Pandya has also made a comeback to the T20I side. Do you think that's going to affect your chances?
Answer: Absolutely not. Hardik Pandya is a superstar of the game; it will be an immense opportunity for me to learn so much from him. He has won so many games for our country, and I hope he keeps doing so. I am taking it as a beautiful opportunity to learn and observe him. There is no competition between us, he is way ahead, and I would like to play alongside him.