KL Rahul hints Venkatesh Iyer likely to be groomed as additional pacer

Shikhar Dhawan likely to be preferred over Ruturaj Gaikwad while Ashwin & Chahal may both play

PTIUpdated: Tuesday, January 18, 2022, 06:27 PM IST
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Venkatesh Iyer | File Photo

India skipper KL Rahul on Tuesday hinted that all-rounder Venkatesh Iyer is likely to be groomed as the additional pace bowling option that the team has lacked ever since Hardik Pandya's back injury while declaring that he will open alongside veteran Shikhar Dhawan in the first ODI against South Africa here.

Rahul's media interaction was a clear indication that Ruturaj Gaikwad might have to wait for his turn and the pitch at Boland Park might prompt the team management to play both specialist spinners -- Ravichandran Ashwin and Yuzvendra Chahal.

"In the past 12-15 months, I have batted in various positions because that is what the team needed of me then and now with Rohit (Sharma) not being there, I will bat at the top of the order," the skipper informed ahead of the opening game.

A sixth bowler, preferably seam or pace option, has been India's major headache for the past two and half years due to Pandya's injury and now the team management is "excited" looking at what Venkatesh brings to the table with his multiple skill-sets.

"Yes, Venkatesh Iyer has been very exciting since the time he has played for KKR in the IPL and then he joined us for the T20 series against New Zealand and he did well," Raul said.

"Yes, fast bowling all-rounders are always an asset and we are always looking for fast bowling all-rounders as they balance the team out. It's a great opportunity for Venkatesh as he is looking good in the nets," the skipper added.

He made it clear that in the coming days, the lanky MP man would be bowling a lot in white-ball games.

"We are trying to develop Venkatesh (as the sixth bowling option) and we will give him that chance. He has done decently and he gives us that option as the sixth bowler."

Shikhar Dhawan currently plays only ODIs and it becomes difficult not to question his place in the side after a few failures but the stand-in captain wants the senior pro to remain in a good head space and play like only he can, by dominating the bowlers.

"He is a senior and experienced player and understands what is expected out of him. He is in a great space and has come out here and having fun, enjoying his cricket "...and I mean yeah as a captain, it will be about trying to keep him in that space and give him that confidence to go out there and do what he has been doing and just to enjoy his cricket and giving Team India the starts that he has done," Rahul was all praise for the oldest playing member of the touring party.

At a personal level, Rahul loves Dhawan's approach towards batting.

"I have personally been someone who has enjoyed seeing Shikhar play in ODIs and how he takes down bowlers. and I just want him to continue doing what he has been doing," he said.

India have practised for two days and it seems that the track at the Boland Park will assist spinners more than the ones they got during the Test series at the Centurion, Wanderers and Newlands.

Rahul wants to pick both spinners during the first two games.

"We have quality spinners and Ashwin is coming back into the ODI team, and we all know what quality he brings in," he said.

"Chahal has been doing it for years now and been a great performer for us for years now and it's been great and hopefully we can exploit that in the first two games, since the pitch looks like it will offer a bit of spin so they both become very important."

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