India has been trying out a lot of seam-bowling all-rounders in the past few years. And the search for these skill sets turned intense post the recurring back injury of Hardik Pandya, which limited his bowling abilities. After Vijay Shankar and Shivam Dube, Madhya Pradesh cricketer Venkatesh Iyer is the latest entry. He bats left-handed and bowls right-arm seam.
Mumbai boy Dube scored one fifty and 105 runs overall in 13 T20I outings with five wickets. Shankar played four games less but ended up with five scalps too. His bat did not do enough talking in the shortest format - 101 runs with the best score of 43.
Dube disappeared after leaking 34 runs in an over against New Zealand in the tour of 2019-20. Shankar played his last T20I game in February 2019 against Australia at home.
Venkatesh is not likely to fade into oblivion. He has the support of skipper Rohit Sharma, who relishes making players out of youngsters by using his leadership skills. Mumbai Indians cricketers Rahul Chahar, Suryakumar Yadav and Krunal Pandya, who played under him in the Indian Premier League, would agree.
The new regime of Indian cricket took off by thrashing the Black Caps 3-0 in the T20I series, and there was a conscious effort from the skipper to keep Venkatesh in the game despite stars in the XI.
In Jaipur, he batted at No. 6 and scored four runs. And in Ranchi, he was promoted to No. 3. He remained unbeaten on 12 as Rishabh Pant finished the game. Back to No. 6 in Kolkata, he batted with more freedom and clarity of thought. The 20 off 15 balls included a signature slog-sweep off leggie Ish Sodhi for a six and a lofted hit over left-arm spinner Mitchell Santner's head for a four. Those were crucial runs as the in-form Rohit had departed at 103/4 in the 12th over.
Venkatesh scored 370 runs in 10 games for the Kolkata Knight Riders in the 2021 edition of the IPL as an opener. He has been opening for his state in the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 trophy too. It will be a challenge for the 26-year-old to blossom in the middle-order in international cricket. "He bats up the order for his franchise, and it will be tough to do that here. We need to give him a role. We will give him a role in the middle or lower middle-order at No. 5 or No. 6. The plan is to keep him in the mix," Rohit told reporters after the match.
He also bowled for the first time in the series and got his maiden international wicket in Adam Milne towards the end. Out of the three overs he bowled, Martin Guptill, Jimmy Neesham and Tim Seifert faced him in the first two. Neesham's run out by Ishan Kishan happened in his second over. He conceded only 12 runs and bowled eight dots.
"His bowling skills are good, a bright prospect for us. He can get the job done for us with the ball. It is about giving him that confidence and making him play as much as we can. He has played only three games and did not get much opportunity to make an impact," said Rohit.
Shankar, who led Tamil Nadu to the final of the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 Trophy in this season, has every chance to present his case to the selectors. But Dube's future looks bleak with only one fifty in the last 10 T20 games he has been part of.
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