Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) head coach Brendon McCullum has revealed that their opener Venkatesh Iyer was slated to play their eighth match in India during the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2021. However, destiny had some other plans, as the tournament got shifted to the UAE due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Iyer eventually made his debut in the UAE phase of the league and smashed a refreshing 41 not out off 27 against Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) in Abu Dhabi. He then made headlines and finished IPL 2021 with 370 runs in ten games at a strike rate of 128.47 as well. He even scored a half-century in the final against Chennai Super Kings (CSK) on Friday. But that wasn’t enough as KKR faced a 27-run defeat.
While speaking about the decision to play Iyer this season, McCullum said at a post-match conference: “Venkatesh Iyer has been quite an incredible story. Looking back, he was actually going to play the next game when we were in India. In a funny way, the break came there at a good time too. It gave him an opportunity to just get another couple of months of cricket under his belt, to understand that his opportunities weren’t too far away.”
Brendon McCullum again said: “For him, it was a matter of bringing the game he owns – the Venkatesh Iyer game plan – to the table, which is an aggressive intent. He’s a big presence; he’s a tall man. He plays the game with a cavalier kind of streak. It’s so important he holds on to that. He will be challenged to change his methods at times too. He might not necessarily be the most consistent because of his flamboyancy. I hope he remains the Venkatesh Iyer that we have seen so far. He’s got an enormous future in this game, and he’s a very intelligent man. He was a big catalyst for our turnaround this season.”
However, both Venkatesh Iyer and Shubman Gill (51) added 91 for the opening wicket against CSK in the final. But, later KKR stumbled to 165 for 9 while chasing 193. Even, Rahul Tripathi (397) also did well but the middle and lower order failed to contribute and they lost.
McCullum shared: “I think it is a fair assessment. Our bowling group did a really good job. We fielded well and our top-order batting was superb. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to get the real impact through our middle-order players. There’s a lot of experience there, and they will be the first ones to admit that they didn’t have the greatest of tournaments. Unfortunately, it happened among all the middle-order (batters).”