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Venkatesh Iyer

India’s handling of allrounder Venkatesh Iyer raises eyebrows

India’s Venkatesh Iyer. (AP Photo)What’s the role of Venkatesh Iyer in the team? That’s one of the many puzzles floating around the Indian ODI team that plays a brand of outdated cricket. There are quite a few issues from the run-getting pace of the top order to lack of wicket-taking bowlers in the middle overs to lack of finishers but Iyer’s case is a good example as any to capture the confusion in the camp. The stand-in captain KL Rahul, and more so head coach Rahul Dravid, cannot absolve themselves of the mismanagement of the seam-bowling all-rounder who made his ODI debut on Wednesday.

Absence of a seaming all-rounder in white-ball cricket has been the team’s biggest weakness of late, which got exposed at the T20 World Cup last year, when picking a half-fit Hardik Pandya backfired. Iyer was fast-tracked to the Indian team after the tournament because the selectors saw him as an option to fill the void. The team management selected him ahead of Suryakumar Yadav for the first ODI, ostensibly to use him as an all-rounder. Neither was he given a single over, nor was the southpaw utilised properly as a batsman. If he hasn’t impressed the team management as a bowler then why has he been picked and wasted low down in the order where he can’t even show his batting prowess? What was the communication between the selectors and the management? The top order, as it stands now, is clustered with batsmen who like to take their time. Something needs to change there to seize the momentum. Iyer would be actually ideal there as in case he succeeds, it will give India a breakthrough from rigidity they have slipped into. And they wouldn’t get a better chance than these bilateral series to try out options.

The ongoing series against the Proteas, or any bilateral series for that matter in the lead-up to the 2023 World Cup, is sort of inconsequential for India in terms of results. Being the hosts of the ICC event, India aren’t part of the World Cup Super League, as they will qualify automatically. From that perspective, bilateral series offers Dravid and company the chance to plug the void/loopholes and zero in on the right players and right combination.

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