Venkatesh Rajasekaran Iyer was just 19 when he broke into the Madhya Pradesh side for the first time. The youngster did not get a chance to bat in his debut game against Railways, but scalped the wicket of seasoned Mahesh Rawat and made his little contribution towards Madhya Pradesh’s four-run win in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy fixture in 2015.
Over the last six years, Iyer has featured in 10 first-class, 24 List A and 39 T20 fixtures for Madhya Pradesh – but the truncated 2020-21 season was perhaps his best. Featuring in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, Iyer amassed 227 runs in five innings, at an average of 75.66.
He kept the momentum going with a 198 against Punjab in a Vijay Hazare Trophy fixture, thus piling up 273 runs in five games. He also bagged three wickets in the tournament.
Obviously, his consistent performances didn’t go unnoticed. The scouting team of KKR had kept an eye on the youngster from Indore and ahead of this year’s auction in February, he was called for a trial in Mumbai. “We liked what we saw of him. He is a batsman, who can bat at the top of the order and he used to play lower down the order for his team. So, that’s an added advantage and he also bowls a bit of medium pace,” KKR analyst AR Srikkanth had told the team website soon after the auction.
“He is someone who knows his game well and has a mature head on his shoulders. So, we thought someone like him would add a lot of value in terms of having depth in the Indian contingent.”
While Iyer had to warm the bench in the first leg, he made his debut in the Indian Premier League on Monday. Donning the Kolkata Knight Riders colours against a star-studded Royal Challengers Bangalore, the 26-year-old from Indore opened the innings for the Knights and came up with an unbeaten 41.
Chasing a total of 93, the opening pair of Iyer and Shubman Gill finished things off in just 10 overs, with the former maintaining a strike rate of 151.85.
While this could just be a beginning for the young gun, the cricketing fraternity is already impressed with him. The fact that he looked calm and composed while facing the likes of Mohammad Siraj and Kyle Jamieson has caught the attention of former India international Irfan Pathan and Manoj Tiwary.
While Pathan enjoyed his batting style, Tiwary believed that if nurtured well, Iyer has the potential to be a genuine fast-bowling all-rounder for India like Hardik Pandya.
But that’s for later. For now, Iyer would hope to make every opportunity count and try to learn a thing or two from his senior team-mates at KKR.
From being a bright student to becoming the U-23 captain for Madhya Pradesh, hard work has been the key to success for Iyer and as he finally enjoys his moment in the big league, this Rajinikanth fan hopes to ‘go with the flow’.