Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) couldn't have asked for a better return to the 14th season of the Indian Premier League (IPL) on Monday as they defeated Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) by nine wickets to record their biggest win (in terms of ball remaining) after folding Virat Kohli's men for a paltry 92. KKR found contributions from Varun Chakravarthy and Andre Russell, both of whom picked three wickets each before the openers chased down the target within 10 overs. Amid those efforts came one from unheralded Venkatesh Iyer who scored 27-ball 41, laced with seven boundaries and a solitary six.
The 26-year-old from Madhya Pradesh was roped in by the two-time champions earlier this year during the auction for the base price of INR 20 lakhs. However, he failed to find a spot in KKR's playing XI in any of their first seven games, as part of the first half, before COVID-19 brought an abrupt halt to the season. But on Monday, in KKR's first game in the UAE leg, Iyer was handed his debut cap.
Before his IPL debut, Iyer played 39 T20 matches in the domestic circuit since 2015, scoring 765 runs at 38.25 at a strike rate of 138.33 with two half-centuries. Iyer also bowls handy medium pace, picking 21 wickets at 25.76. Besides T20, he has also played 24 List A matches and 10 first-clas games for Madhya Pradesh, scoring 849 runs and 545 runs respectively.
Besides cricket, Iyer had enrolled himself for B.Com degree, alongside a chartered accountancy degree.
"I decided to give up my CA and pursue an MBA in finance," Iyer told ESPNCricinfo"I gave a lot of entrance exams, had decent scores, and enrolled into a good college. I was fortunate the faculty liked cricket, and they saw I was doing well, and gave me the cushion by taking care of my attendance, preparing notes and rescheduling exams.
"Honestly, I didn't have to put in a lot of effort to manage both. I'm not bragging, I've always been a bright student, I can't say the same about my cricket. That is the kind of confidence I have in my academics. Had there been no cricket, I would have landed in an IIT (Indian Institute of Technology) or IIM (Indian Institute of Management).
On Monday, Iyer combined with Shubman Gill to stitch an 82-run opening stand to drive KKR close to a win. After the departure of Gill in the 10th over, Iyer continued his momentum to score the remainder and help Kolkata jump to the fifth spot in the table.