Updated: November 19, 2021 3:31:11 pm
Venkatesh Iyer had struggled to get going for Kolkata Knight Riders on a two-paced pitch in Sharjah against Rajasthan Royals. He had hung in, though, to move to 38 off 34 deliveries, but then tried a big reverse-sweep against the legspinner Rahul Tewatia only to be bowled.
Iyer had already impressed during his breakthrough IPL season, not least for his ability to hit pace on the up with power. Dinesh Sharma, one of Iyer’s mentors and his long-time coach at Maharaja Yeshwantrao Cricket Club in Indore, was, however, unimpressed seeing him give away a hard-earned start. “Reverse sweep is a shot usually needed by those who do not have too many strokes,” Sharma said. “God has given him such a gift that he can smash deliveries on the rise that may be out of the reach of others.”
After he returned from the UAE, Sharma told his ward that just because he was playing the T20 format did not mean that he had to necessarily resort to sweeps and reverse-sweeps. Especially when with his height, reach, and strength, he can clear the straighter boundaries with ease.
On Wednesday, Sharma watched with expectation as Iyer made his India debut in the first T20I against New Zealand in Jaipur. Iyer came in to bat at No.6 with India needing 10 off the last over bowled by Daryl Mitchell and pulled his first ball for four.
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The dream start unravelled next ball, though, courtesy the shot Sharma had advised Iyer to stay away from if he could. Iyer tried clearing short third man with a reverse sweep, but Mitchell had slowed it down, and the ball looped straight to the fielder.
“It’s not like the reverse sweep can fetch you 10 runs if you nail it, you will still get only four. The ball he got out to, if he had hit it straighter I tell you it would have gone for six over extra cover.”
Sharma knows the impact Iyer would have made had he hit the winning runs on debut.
“It is okay now, it happened in the heat of the moment, but it can cost you at times. If he had won that match for the team, who knows, he could have given himself the next 10 games in the XI.”
The coach understands the reverse was probably on, but maintains that Iyer would have been better off without attempting it. “Even Mitchell must have known after the pulled four that if he bowled into the pitch again, Venkatesh would hit him again. And Venkatesh must have also realised that the ball would now come full outside off, so the reverse was on because third man was up.
“But Mitchell bowled a bit slower and Venkatesh could not connect well. If he had, it would have cleared the fielder, but I would still say that he should not have gone for the reverse, because Mitchell is not even a full-time bowler and he could have hit him anywhere else with his power.”
Sharma says he will not bother Iyer with detailed feedback until the end of the series. “All I messaged him after the game was, ‘Bad luck, but good attitude.’”
When he started out for Madhya Pradesh, Iyer came to be known more for his seam bowling than his hitting abilities. Because of his height, his deliveries would often kick from a length, and he would be in demand in team nets.
However, it is his bowling combined with his hitting that has got Iyer into the Indian team. In the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy recently, Iyer bowled 15 overs in five T20s for MP. In Jaipur, he came in to bat at the spot the rested Hardik Pandya occupies but did not get a bowl. Sharma is hopeful Iyer will be given the ball in the remaining two T20Is.
Ever since he first saw him bat years ago, Sharma has been convinced of Iyer’s potential to make it big.
When Iyer was in the tenth standard, he says he told Iyer’s mother to not bother about getting him into a conventional career. “All the doctors and engineers will ask for his autograph, just let him play sincerely for a couple of years.”
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