Kolkata Knight Riders head coach Brendon McCullum has backed Venkatesh Iyer to come good again and insisted that the all-rounder, who has had an ordinary IPL 2022 season, is still in contention to win a spot in the playing XI.
Venkatesh was one of the biggest contributors to the Knight Riders' improbable run to the IPL final last year. Though Iyer played only 10 of their 17 matches, he finished as their fourth-highest run-getter with a tally of 370.
Based on his performance he was retained by the KKR ahead of the mega auction but this season he has failed to deliver with both bat and ball. After scoring just 109 runs in seven innings as opener, Knight Riders moved him down to the middle order but it didn't work either. With just one score above 20 and a half-century against Mumbai Indians - he eventually had to make way for others in the playing XI.
"He didn't get as many runs as he would have liked and we were forced to look at some other (opening) options, which is disappointing for someone who has represented India in the last seven-eight months on the back of what was a very good IPL last time in the UAE," McCullum said after Knight Riders' seventh loss on Saturday and the result pushed two time champions to the brink of elimination.
"It is frustrating for him and he is working hard in the nets and trying to get his spot back and that'll certainly be a consideration. In a short tournament, you've got to be prepared to use some other guys in the squad and that's what we had to unfortunately do with Venkatesh but he's certainly not out of the reckoning in the games to come. He is a real talent and has a good head on his shoulders. I know he is determined to take that next step and start to perform more regularly," he added.
Asked whether the all-rounder may be suffering from the second-season syndrome, the KKR head coach agreed.
"As well with Venky's second year, teams do a bit more scouting and homework as has historically been the case in this tournament as well as in international cricket," he said.
Notably, Venkatesh's bowling has also not come to his aid, having bowled all of three overs at an economy over 12 but McCullum feels that down to his not getting too many chances.
"Unfortunately, Venky and (Nitish) Rana, who we've underutilised a little bit, they haven't had enough opportunity to bowl and have just missed the execution (in the chances they have got). That can affect one's confidence when they are not able to get into a game and settle into a game," the coach said.
KKR will face Mumbai Indians in their next IPL 2022 match at the DY Patil Stadium on Monday and it will be interesting to see whether Venkatesh will get a chance or not.