Venkatesh Iyer, Ravi Bishnoi – the gains from the India, West Indies T20Is

Bishnoi and his quick through the air googlies, and Venkatesh’s cool head under pressure are signs of good things to come.

Venkatesh Iyer and Ravi Bishnoi

Venkatesh Iyer (left) and Ravi Bishnoi   -  Sportzpics for BCCI

Venkatesh Iyer is Kolkata’s adopted son. The knight rider, coincidentally, is a fan of Sourav Ganguly. A right-handed batter at first, he switched to emulate the former India captain. And the southpaw understands the importance of consistency at the international stage.

Venkatesh is not blessed with the finest of footwork. He trusts his timing. He watches the ball till the last second. The 27-year-old is likely to develop the artsy flourish of a classical left-hander with time. At present, the monstrous strikes, especially the ones on the leg side, have been hiding the flaws and winning games for India.

He played a role in the consecutive victories over the West Indies in the first two T20Is that closed the series with a game to spare. On Wednesday at the Eden Gardens, he played the supporting role to Suryakumar Yadav and exploded with a match-winning six. The unbeaten 24 off 13 also upped his strike-rate which often becomes a selection criterion in the T20 format.

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And on Friday, the 18-ball 33 (4x4, 6x1) changed the pulse of the Indian essay in the middle overs. That the tourist fell short by just eight runs while chasing 187 proves the gravity of the knock.

Rishabh Pant and Venkatesh fed off each other’s power-hitting skills. “I think when you come down the order you know the situation and gauge what’s going to happen. He reads the situation really well, and we talked about keeping things simple. Our plan was to see the ball, hit the ball.

“We have not set any template, but we are trying to capitalise in the middle overs. You have to play the situation at the end of the day,” Pant told reporters after the victory.

Pant feels Venkatesh is “mature” and mentally tough after having gone through the rigours of domestic cricket. The duo had a partnership of 76 runs off 35 balls for the fifth wicket. “He is a mature cricketer. He used to play down the order for Madhya Pradesh, but he opened in the IPL but as an Indian cricket team, we are trying to find different positions for different players,” he said. Venkatesh, of course, needs to bowl more often with precision to cement his spot as an all-rounder.

Bishnoi and his snaky action

Googlies are difficult to pick. And it is perhaps the toughest if the bowler is quicker through the air. Ravi Bishnoi is special. The youngster has to sharpen his fielding skills but with a ball in hand, he can run through anybody.

Bishnoi picked up a wicket in his first over in the second game to finish 1/30. Earlier, he had a dream debut when he returned  2/17 in the series opener.

Rovman Powell could hit the leggie for a six and a four after studying him for a while. He considered it as a learning experience. “I think it is very difficult for us right-handers. It is difficult to start against Bishnoi. He is pretty fast on these wickets which we have to take into consideration. I started well against him and Chahal, two leg-spinners, which gave me confidence,” said the batter who ended a tragic hero with an unbeaten 68 off 36.

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Pant feels Bishnoi will get better with guidance and freedom if he makes the opportunities count. “I think for a newcomer in the team, it is all about giving him confidence. The more you speak to him is better. We can talk about our plans but it is important to know what he is feeling as a bowler,” said India’s wicketkeeper, who has the best seat for the Bishnoi show.

Sunday’s game is a dead rubber but the Board of Control for Cricket in India has allowed 20,000-odd spectators at the venue which could be a sweet change for the players.

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