Kolkata: The mega auction for 2022 season of a bigger IPL has already been coming up in discussion among the fans - and there are no prizes for guessing that Venkatesh Iyer, the tall and intense looking opener of Kolkata Knight Riders, is emerging as a candidate for which all 10 teams will be ready to break the bank.
The last occasion that the IPL stage had been agog with the arrival of an Indian batsman was perhaps in the 2020 edition with Devdutt Padikkal. While there was almost a whizkid like quality in Padikkal who was fresh from the Under-19 ranks, Iyer is different - he is essentially a product of the vibrant domestic structure of India who has come up the hard way.
The rollicking 67 off 49 balls on Friday, albeit in a losing cause against Punjab Kings, was another example of the maturity that this 26-year-old from Madhya Pradesh brings to the table for the Knights. His sequence of scores are 41 not out, 53, 18, 14 and 67 in the second leg of IPL - something which may not be bringing the roof down but has provided the stability that the KKR batting line-up had been lacking at the top of the order.
He had been one of the key elements behind a resurgent Kolkata in the second half of the season, while the way he has acquitted himself in the role of the fifth bowler with his slow cutters surely makes him a candidate to be in the running for the MVP award.
What is it about the management graduate’s batting that makes him so special? There has been no dearth of dazzling strokemakers in India who would have you up on your feet every now and then - from a young Padikkal to a mature Suryakumar Yadav. The difference between them and Iyer is in a batting line-up which boasts of an infinitely talented Shubman Gill, captain Eoin Morgan or veteran Dinesh Karthik, he prefers to build his innings by shifting gears - almost like the was the leader of a batting unit (Gautam Gambhir comes to mind) would have done.
Barely after his first two innings, experts had been seeing shades of Yuvraj Singh in the bat swing of the left-hander who is a self professed fan of Sourav Ganguly. Iyer, however, is not just about stepping out and hitting the ball across the line - he is equally comfortable on the backfoot in cutting or pulling and prefers to rotate the strike when runs dry up after the powerplay overs. With the ball in hand, he picked up 2/29 against Delhi Capitals in a game which KKR lost only narrowly.
A look at his List A record in domestic cricket shows an average of 47 - while his ability to bowl the tough overs is making up for the absence of an injured Andre Russell.
How much would someone like Iyer fetch in the auction? “I’m thinking 12-14 crores ($ 2 million plus) because this is not a kind of a fluke show,’’ former Indian Test star Sanjay Manjrekar, now a TV pundit, stirred up the pot during a chat on Friday. We will wait and watch!