“Always the collective, not any individual”: Venkatesh Iyer explains Gambhir’s cricket philosophy

Venkatesh Iyer and Gautam Gambhir for KKR (Image: IPL)

Average of 77 in IPL knockout games and four 50s to go with it, Venkatesh Iyer, in pressure situations, has been a revelation for Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR). And in the final against Sunrisers Hyderabad, he literally batted them out of the game in the third over itself, something he said to Boria Majumdar in this exclusive conversation with Revsportz.

Getting married soon, Iyer took time out to chat on the Gautam Gambhir impact, what Shahrukh Khan means to the franchise, the Mitchell Starc ball to Abhishek Sharma and more.


Boria: There is a lot of talk about Gautam Gambhir at the moment. You spent a good three months with him. What are your takeaways, and what was it like to have him in the dressing room?

Venkatesh Iyer: The talk was always about the team. That it is not an individual sport, and that it was always about the team. People from the outside always talk about individual scores. But take the 95 runs scored by Ramandeep Singh. They are more valuable for us at KKR than may be 600 runs scored by someone else. That’s what he reminded us continuously. Each time I spoke to him, he would welcome me with a smile and tell me how I could make a difference to the team. That’s the moot point with him – it is always about the collective, and not ever about any individual.

Boria: You have an incredible record in knockouts. Is it true that pressure gets the best out of you?

Venkatesh: No, it is nothing like that. It is true that over a period of time, I have become more mature. I am older, and have started to play in my head as well. I now visualise more and think more, and that has helped me deal with situations better. But I always try and play knockout games as any other game, and try to keep things simple. So far, it has worked for me.

Boria: How was it to share the team room with Mitch Starc, and if you were to face that ball to Abhishek Sharma, what would you have done?

Venkatesh: I could have done nothing. I can tell you, no batsman in the world could have done anything against that ball. Maximum, I would have edged it to slip, but I would have still got out. That’s how good that ball was, and I have thought about it ever since. In fact, I am being honest that I, for anyone for that matter, could have really done nothing against that ball.


Before the tournament, I was like: what will Starc be like? But he is one of the sweetest men around, and is always open for a conversation. Yes, he has the aura around him for all that he has achieved, but let me tell you he is one of the most amiable characters you will meet.

Boria: The final was relatively low scoring, but if you remember in 2017, Mumbai Indians managed to defend 129. Low-scoring finals could often be tricky. What was the team talk like in the middle of the game? More so after you lost Sunil [Narine] cheaply, what was your thought process when you walked in?

Venkatesh: As I walked in, I wanted to make sure that our dugout did not have a headache. I wanted to attack from the ball go, because if you take calculated risks and they come off, such games can be over in a jiffy. And truth be told, Sunrisers had given up by the third over itself, and it was apparent to us. That’s what the plan was – to shut them out of the game and take control, and I am glad I was able to implement the plan to perfection and close out the match.

Boria: Shah Rukh Khan was far more actively involved this year. For someone of his aura to be so hands on, how is it for you all in the change room? What impact does Shah Rukh Khan as owner have on this team?

Venkatesh: He had massive impact. Each time I think of Shah Rukh Sir, I have to tell you I have goosebumps. When someone of his stature tells you something, it automatically pumps you up. If today, I tell a kid how to play a drive, and Sachin Sir comes and tells the kid to play the same shot, what impact will it have? That’s what Shah Rukh Sir has on each one of us. Seeing him there for so many days was magic for us at KKR, and let me tell you, it made a telling difference to the team.

Boria: And the fans – they have braved 43 degrees Celsius heat in Kolkata day in and day out to come and cheer for you all. How important are the fans for the franchise?

Venkatesh: They mean everything to us at KKR. There was not a single team meeting where we did not discuss our fans. Someone or the other would inevitably remind us that we were playing for our fans. The crowd waiting outside Eden Gardens, the roar each time we did something, it is a heady feeling to know you have an army behind you, that you have a family that stretches into millions. Like I said in my social media post as well – this win is for all of Kolkata, and for each and every KKR fan.