Mitch Starc will be a menace for other teams in this IPL: Venkatesh Iyer

Venkatesh Iyer in KKR Practice Game
Venkatesh Iyer in KKR Practice Game (PC: Debasis Sen)

Venkatesh Iyer has made a significant impact for Madhya Pradesh with his performances in the Ranji Trophy this season. The Kolkata Knight Riders all-rounder amassed 547 runs in eight games at an average of 45.58 and claimed eight wickets with his seam-up bowling. The last time KKR made it to the IPL final in 2021, Venkatesh played a key role. That performance in the IPL earned him a place in India’s white-ball side. But a string of poor performances which followed saw him getting dropped.

RevSportz: You played a key role in helping KKR reach the final in Dubai in IPL 2021. Do you feel the Knight Riders have the firepower to go the full distance this season and win the title for a third time?

Venkatesh: I think we have a great team this season. Obviously, with Shreyas Iyer coming back as captain, it bolsters our batting line-up. The signing of Mitchell Starc also strengthens the bowling attack as we all know he can be dangerous with the new ball and at the death. KKR looks very strong this season and we are hoping to have a cracker of a season.

RevSportz: How big an impact can Mitchell Starc make for the Knight Riders this season?

Venkatesh: Price tags don’t matter at all once the auction is done and the player is in your team. It is important what he (Starc) brings to the table. We all know he is an accomplished bowler both with the new ball and at the death. He has done wonders for Australia and has been one of the greatest left-arm fast bowlers of all time. I think that is what creates an impact on the team. It does not matter what money he signed for. I think, his (Starc) coming will give a lot of confidence to the youngsters, bowling around him and learning from him.

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RevSportz: How was it like facing Starc at the nets?

Venkatesh: He is very intimidating to face in the middle. We have seen him bamboozle the batters. To play him was amazing as you get to understand your batting when you face the best. As a batter, you strive for these challenges, facing the likes of Starc, Varun Chakravarthy, and Sunil Narine and that really makes you better as a cricketer. I think playing him in the practice sessions was a great challenge and I am sure he will be a menace for other teams in this IPL.

RevSportz: How has the experience been so far, sharing the dressing room with mentor Gautam Gambhir?

Venkatesh: It is very inspirational and I am grateful and fortunate to be sharing the dressing room with Gautam Gambhir Sir. What he has done not just for KKR but the impact he has created for Indian cricket, is nothing short of amazing. He is such a wonderful team-man. The words he speaks oozes confidence. Listening to him and talking to him, at the end of the conversation you feel you are ready for the battle,  go out there and win against any opposition. Such is the impact he has created. He is also an amazing tactician and has a sharp brain. He also speaks about creating an impact rather than individual milestones. And that is one thing which stands out for me, his approach to the game.

RevSportz: What is that one thing that has impressed you the most after your interactions with him?

Venkatesh: Wherever Gautam bhai goes, he carries a lot of confidence. That confidence comes from his self-belief. And that is something I need to learn. I am looking forward to understanding how it works. Whatever he does, there is so much conviction in it. I feel that is one of his great qualities. He truly embodies the word team-spirit. For him, KKR is above everything right now.

Mitchell Starc
Mitchell Starc (PC: Debasis Sen)

RevSportz: Shreyas Iyer was not available last season due to an injury. How big a boost will his presence be this time?

Venkatesh: We missed Shreyas big time last season but Nitish did a fabulous job as captain. But Shreyas coming back, obviously he had a great World Cup (2023), we all know what he can do with the bat. With him in the side, it solidifies our batting. His return is a huge confidence boost for us. Shreyas is a quality player and I admire his leadership a lot. He is a risk-taker and reads the situation very well. We are all very happy to have him back on our side.

RevSportz: In your career so far, you have already witnessed highs and lows. How do you look at it?

Venkatesh: It has made me a stronger person in life. Once everything is going well, you tend to go with the flow.  But when failures hit you, it is easier said than done and you have to learn from it. I learnt it the hard way. But that’s how professional cricket is. You will not taste success all the time as you will also face a lot of failure. Once I understood that, my outlook towards the game and life changed as well. It is extremely important to be in the right mind space because the game is constantly challenging you. It is very important to be calm and composed to understand that you can only prepare well go out there execute your plans and leave the rest to God. So, I think it has been a great learning curve for me. I am hopeful this learning continues and I continue to evolve not just as a cricketer but also as a human being.

RevSportz: You are heading into IPL 2024 on the back of a successful first-class season for Madhya Pradesh.  Does that put you in a good frame of mind?

Venkatesh: I think playing domestic cricket has given me a lot of confidence. I am happy that I could play the full season and bowl a lot for MP. I took the new ball in white ball tournaments and also bowled a lot with the red ball as well. That has given me the clarity that I can deliver with the ball as well in any situation because in a Ranji Trophy game, there are so many situations you encounter. You have to face the new ball under overcast conditions. Then, you face spinners on turning tracks. Playing the full Ranji Trophy season was helpful for me. And I must thank Chandu (Chandrakant Pandit) Sir for giving me this opportunity. And yeah, that has helped my preparation a lot.

Venkatesh Iyer during KKR Practice Game
Venkatesh Iyer during KKR Practice Game (PC: Debasis Sen)

RevSportz: Chandrakant Pandit has played a big role in shaping your career. Your thoughts?

Venkatesh: Whatever I have achieved so far in cricket, I have to give a lot of credit to him. It was after he arrived at MPCA, that things started changing, not just for the association but for the players as well. Under him, I, Rajat Patidar, and Kuldeep went on to make international debuts. I have a lot of respect for him. He has been an amazing tactician. His strategies are on point. When it comes to assessing a situation, I have not seen anyone better than Chandu Sir. The way he analyses a situation and brings out a solution is great. That is why he is so successful as a coach and I hope he brings that (zing) to KKR this season.

RevSportz: Finally, you will be facing Sunrisers Hyderabad in the first match at Eden Gardens. They have a very strong side on paper spearheaded by Pat Cummins. Your thoughts.

Venkatesh: Every team in IPL is a challenging opposition and have quality international players. Sunrisers are no different as they boast of a good fast bowling attack. They have also got a good Indian core as well. So, it will be a good challenge for us. It will be good for us to play a team like SRH early in the season to know where we stand as a team. To face a quality side will give us a lot of confidence. We are well prepared for Saturday’s clash.

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