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EXCLUSIVE – IPL 2022: ‘Iss baar IPL jeetna hai’: Die-hard Rajinikanth fan Venkatesh Iyer opens up on his KKR and Team India journeys | Cricket News – Times of India

NEW DELHI: Kolkata Knight Riders will begin their quest to end their seven year wait for the coveted IPL 2022 trophy when they take on defending champions Chennai Super Kings in the tournament opener this time on March 26 at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai.
KKR’s dashing all-rounder Venkatesh Iyer, who was fast-tracked into the Indian limited overs teams based largely on his IPL heroics last season, is confident that KKR who are two-time champions will once again have a successful season.
Last season, KKR made it to the final, but lost to CSK in the summit clash.
The very tall left hand batsman, Iyer, is known for his attacking style of play and was retained by KKR ahead of the IPL 2022 mega auction. He played 10 matches for KKR last season and scored 370 runs at a very healthy average of 41.11. He also bagged three wickets in the 2021 edition.
Iyer made headlines in phase 2 of IPL 2021. Due to his attacking style of play, Iyer was asked to open in the crucial Qualifier 2 vs Delhi Capitals. After KKR restricted DC to 135 in 20 overs, Iyer, who opened the innings with Shubman Gill, tore apart Delhi’s bowling attack with a blistering 55 off 41 balls, which included 4 fours and 3 mammoth sixes. Iyer was also adjudged Man of the match in Qualifier2.

Venkatesh Iyer (BCCI/IPL Photo)
Overall, the lanky left-handed batsman hit 37 fours and 14 sixes on his IPL debut, at a strike rate of 128.47. He also bowled 8.3 overs in the tournament and took 3 wickets.
With Venky Iyer brimming with confidence now, post his India debut and eyeing a more successful season for himself and his team in the 15th edition of the IPL, TimesofIndia.com caught up with the 6 foot 2 inch tall cricketer to talk about KKR’s chances this year, his bonhomie with the Iyer in the KKR dressing room (Shreyas Iyer) who is also the KKR captain, playing for India, T20 World Cup dreams, new India captain Rohit Sharma and much more…
You were retained by KKR ahead of the last auction. Did you expect that to happen?
It feels great to be retained. I was so happy. I am really thankful to KKR for showing faith in me. I am really happy that I am retained. The only thing going on in my mind is how to take KKR to a title win this time. I want KKR to lift the winning trophy this time. Shreyas and I always talk in the dressing room and during practice sessions “yaar…iss baar IPL jeetna hai” (We have to win the IPL this time). We always give inputs to each other. When a lot of people think together then the synergy is something amazing. The only thing I think of is contributing with bat and ball for KKR and taking them to title win, irrespective of which position I bat or which team I play against.
Two Iyers in one dressing room. You and Shreyas both play for India and now are playing for KKR together too. What is your relationship with Shreyas like?
He (Shreyas) is a wonderful bloke. He is a wonderful guy. He is a good captain and I am sure we will have a wonderful time (together). Though he is young, he has got a lot of experience (already). He is very jovial and entertaining. But when he is on the field, he is very focussed.

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Shreyas Iyer and Venkatesh Iyer (BCCI/IPL Photo)
What has the India journey been like so far?
It has been filled with a lot of learning. I got a new role in the middle order and trust me I really enjoyed it. More than that, I enjoyed fielding for the team and bowling too. Though I didn’t bowl a lot of overs, whatever overs I bowled, I really enjoyed it. I am someone who is always ready for a challenge. And when the opportunity comes, I grab it with both hands. It’s been a wonderful journey so far. I learned a lot from Virat bhai and Rohit bhai and all my seniors.
What was the experience of sharing the India dressing room with the likes of Rohit, Virat, and your good friend Avesh Khan like?
It was wonderful. I never felt I am new here or I am a junior. I was treated with a lot of respect by the captain, seniors, and players. A lot of warmth and positivity is there in this dressing room. They made me feel my importance in the dressing room. And when you are there, they consider you as an integral part of the team which is an amazing thing to feel.
When I entered the dressing room, I saw the legends of the game. I saw Rohit bhai, Virat bhai, KL Rahul, Bumrah and Rahul Dravid sir. This team (Indian senior men’s team) has so many stars, an abundance of talent. These guys have cemented their places in the team with their talent, hard work and created a legacy. You can pick their brains and learn a lot about what they have done in their career.
As a beginner, it is important for you to learn and keep learning. That’s what I did. I have tried to pick their brains and it has helped me a lot. I am doing that and will continue to do it. This process will go on. The hunger these people show is incredible. This Indian team is not satisfied with what they have achieved. They want to go out to the middle and win and win big.
Rohit Sharma said he wants to groom you for the No. 6 spot in the Indian team…
Yes absolutely. I am ready for any position and situation. As a professional cricketer, I have always maintained that I need to be very flexible. We have to understand that we are entering a team where there is cut-throat competition and that too for every role and for every player. There are not just a couple of players ready to replace you, there are hundreds in numbers, waiting.

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Image credit: AFP
So, you have to be ready for every challenge thrown at you. Rather than my body and cricketing style adapting to it, it’s my mind accepting these things. If my mind accepts and says – ‘yes, I have to play this role’, I don’t think there should be a problem. It won’t depend on my performance what I do, it would depend on the process I follow. I have shaped myself in a way that I can accept any role given to me.
What is the overall communication between team management and players in the Indian dressing room like?
There is a lot of clarity in the communication. The way they (team management) communicate has a lot of clarity. It clearly tells exactly what you have to do. I know what my role is. I just have to go out in the middle and try to execute things. Sometimes things work out, sometimes they don’t. But when you have the backing and support and guidance of the captain and coach, you feel confident.
The communication is clear – go and try things, you don’t have to feel the pressure of competition or performance or anything. You just have to go out in the middle, follow the process, express yourself, and execute your plans.
Do you think you are ahead of Hardik Pandya in the pecking order for the all-rounders spot in the team currently?
As a cricketer, I have huge respect for Hardik bhai for what he has done for India. It is unbelievable. I am a huge admirer of Hardik bhai. These comparisons are very natural, but I pay no heed to them.
Would it be fair to say that making the cut for this year’s T20 World Cup is your next big target?
I do have that in my mind. It’s a marquee event. It is there in my mind for sure. I am someone who functions on a daily basis and doesn’t make future plans. I am focussing on the next step. It can be a practice session written in my roster, next match, or anything else. I complete one task and then I look forward (to the next).
If I make plans too far ahead, then I will forget to live in the moment and will not be able to focus much. I have the T20 World Cup in the back of my mind. Once it nears, my plans and preparations will be in place.

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Venkatesh Iyer (AFP Photo)
The last time India won the T20 World Cup title was way back in the inaugural edition in 2007 under MS Dhoni’s captaincy. Do you think new India captain Rohit Sharma can do what Dhoni did in 2007, take India to a title win this time?
Every time we enter the tournament, we have the same hope that we will win the World Cup. I don’t think the result is in anyone’s hands. It is just the effort we put in. Our efforts and preparations are always related to winning the ICC tournament. One thing is for sure our preparations are going to be amazing. We will be on point.
Virat is no longer the India captain. How has his role in the Indian team changed? Does he still play a leadership role along with Rohit?
I remember Dada (Sourav Ganguly) quoting once ‘to be a leader you don’t necessarily have to be holding a position’. A leader is someone who irrespective of his position is able to create an environment where everyone is at parity. Virat bhai has got huge huge experience.
He is a leader. He knows how to carry the team. We have seen on the TV screens how these two – Rohit and Virat – how they guide youngsters, how they discuss and plan things and take India to wins. It is really amazing to have both players in the dressing room.

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Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma (AFP Photo)
You are the tallest player in the India dressing room right now. Does your height give you a big advantage while batting or bowling?
I am 6’2 and yes, I am the tallest right now (laughs). As a bowler, I get extra bounce. I can surprise you with my extra bounce. As a batter, the height helps to a greater extent. I can fetch balls and send them far away. The height helps in swinging the bat fast. This is my body type and I have to accept it. I have to create my batting technique around this. Yes, there are advantages (laughs). I am really thankful to my bowling coach Anand Rajan and my nutritionist Suraj Thakuriya. They have played a big role in my career. Suraj has played a big role in developing my body.
You are also a big Rajinikanth fan…
I just want to ask him (Rajinikanth) if he is free and to please take some time out for me and meet me. I really want to meet him. I want to wish him a lot of good health. His next movie has been announced 169 (Thalaivar 169) and I am really looking forward to watching it.

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