Can KKR’s Venkatesh Iyer be IPL’s Gary Sobers?

KKR vs RCB (Image source: BCCI/IPL)
KKR vs RCB (Image source: BCCI/IPL)

Left-Handed batter. Bat to the ground. Minimal Backlift. Closed feet. Camped on the back foot. Open stance. Quick on the feet. No bent legs.

If this description of technique doesn’t remind you of Sir Garfield Sobers, then the fact that he bowls medium pace too, definitely would.

This technique was rather common in the 1950s and 60s where batters weren’t looking to play the ball on the up or belt it out of the ground too often. Such technique led to several great batsmen in Test and First class level. Fast forward to 2021 and T20 cricket, here is Venkatesh Iyer with that classical technique.

Venkatesh Iyer's body position while batting (Image source: BCCI/IPL)
Venkatesh Iyer’s body position while batting (Image source: BCCI/IPL)

First, let’s see the kind of shots this batting technique opens for the batter. As the weight is camped on the back foot and feet are close together, it frees the front foot to adjust for the line of the ball which leads to a very solid defence. It becomes easier to move the feet to either get down the track or go deep in the crease. In terms of scoring shots, anything on and around the stumps is readily scorable on both sides of the wicket. Anything short and wide can be dealt fiercely and hook shot can also be played well.

The tricky line is anything fuller at 5th-6th  stump line as it is difficult to access with leg stump guard. Even round the wicket bowlers can trouble the batter with a wider line, particularly seamers and off-spinners. While in Test or FC level it is rather convenient to leave the ball wide of off-stump, in T20 that line draws more of a compulsive shot-making.

Thus, it becomes crucial not to go hard on the drive on wider deliveries. Here, innovation can help batters like Venkatesh. A steer through point or a reverse sweep/flick can be used as a better scoring opportunity. His height would also benefit him here.

There is no wonder why Venkatesh impressed us all in his first outing. A proper technique and good looking shots is something every cricket lover would fall for. His first few boundaries were through a cut, back-foot punch, down the track loft and off-drive from the stumps; signs of a proper batter.

The challenge for Venkatesh lies ahead when he will encounter on-song bowlers particularly the quicks and most importantly when he experiences score-board pressure in a big tournament like this. He certainly has the right artillery, and we await to see how he uses it.

Well, certainly he isn’t Gary Sobers but he does remind us of the great man.

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