Venkatesh Iyer, who on the back of a stunning Vijay Hazare season has been picked as the seam-bowling all-rounder for the ODIs against South Africa, played down the narrative that he is ‘competing’ with Hardik Pandya and stressed that his primary aim will always be to deliver goods for the team with both bat and ball.
Iyer stole the limelight last year through a stunning showing in the second half of IPL 2021, which earned him a T20I cap, and then sizzled for Madhya Pradesh in the 2021/22 Vijay Hazare season, scoring 379 runs at an average of 63 and SR of 133.92 while taking 9 wickets with the ball.
Picked in the ODI series for South Africa as a result, the all-rounder, in an interview to TOI, stressed that all he ever thinks about is contributing to the side.
"I don't play for (any kind of) competition (with other players), I play for my team. I am playing because I have got the opportunity from the selectors and my captain,” Iyer told TOI.
“When I go out in the middle to bat, I just focus on batting and try to put as many runs (on the board as possible) for my team. When my captain gives me the ball, I think as a bowler and try to control the flow of runs and take wickets.
"I am an all-rounder and have to think like an all-rounder, not a batsman or a bowler. It's a dual responsibility. If I think about what is going on off the field or outside the ground, I won't be able to focus on my game. I just want to see my team win matches and I want to do the job for my team.”
Iyer played three T20Is against New Zealand post the T20 World Cup and got his first taste of international cricket in the series that India, under the leadership of Rohit Sharma, won 3-0. The 27-year-old, whose opportunities in the series were limited, claimed that the three T20Is served as a great ‘learning experience’ for him, and revealed that he worked hard on his bowling after the series.
"During my debut series, I got to witness first-hand how international cricket is played. It was a huge learning experience for me. After the tour, I put in a lot of work into my bowling. I want to be perfect in both departments - batting and bowling. I am an allrounder and I know I need to be ready to perform both roles," Iyer said.
"I put in a lot of hard work during practice and that gives me a lot of confidence to handle pressure. If you are confident about your skills, then you can do whatever you want in the middle. I always maintain my practice schedule and follow it religiously. My practice schedule is going amazingly well and it is working fantastically for me.”
With the ODI series approaching, the all-rounder stated that he wants to pick the brains of the senior players in the side to learn about South African conditions, and attested that his solitary goal is to help team India win the series.
"I am really happy. I am really looking forward to another challenge and want to win the series (ODI series vs SA) for my team. I am really happy and excited to play against South Africa. South African conditions are challenging and I am ready to take on this challenge.
"We have players in our team who have played a lot of cricket in South Africa, be it Tests or limited overs. I want to discuss the conditions and experience (of playing in SA) with Virat bhai. What the conditions are like, how the pitches behave, and of course his personal experience. It will help me acclimatise to the conditions quickly. . I am looking forward to learning from all the players in the team.”