Is Venkatesh suffering from the Second-Season Syndrome?

Apr 29, 2022

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Life in the IPL hasn’t been easy for Venkatesh Iyer since he got retained by Kolkata Knight Riders for INR 8 crore, which was 40 times bigger than his previous salary. This season, Venkatesh has batted eight times and has gone past 20 only once. His average (18.00) nor his strike rate (102.43) are not exactly pretty to read.

The Knight Riders have moved Venkatesh into the middle order after six games as an opener. But it has not worked well either. So now, everybody is wondering: what is wrong with Venkatesh Iyer?

It seems that his troubles this season can be attributed mostly to the category of second-season syndrome, according to both the former captain and coach of Royal Challengers Bangalore Daniel Vettori and former Knight Riders batter Chris Lynn.

Vettori spoke with ESPNCricinfo about the matter.

“I think I remember a discussion with Lynny, probably when we were watching a game, when he just thought that there’s a lot more information on Venkatesh Iyer, and therefore bowling coaches, coaches in general, have put a lot more time and effort into how to find a way to bowl to him, and I think that’s simply second-season [syndrome] or whatever it is – it happens. It’s happened to a lot of players, it’s happened to a lot of very good players, and the challenge, I suppose, is to step up from that.”

“And I think bowlers also have an understanding – some bowlers would have had success against him and try to relive that, and some bowlers would try to rectify mistakes that they made last year. I don’t think you need to overthink it; it’s just the fact that teams, players, coaches are better prepared for him.”

According to Lynn, Venkatesh’s challenge would be to find a way to fight back into his top form.

“On the whiteboards in every change room will be exactly the same plans, no doubt about that, and he’s just got to find a way,” he said. “There’s no doubt he’s good enough to bat from [Nos.] 1 to 6 – he’s playing in the Kolkata side for a reason, because he’s got talent. It’s just that teams have more knowledge and it’s as simple as that, I think,” Lynn said.

“The challenge for him is to try and go back to the drawing board, build some confidence, whether that’s for Kolkata or for another team, but just try and have some clarity when he’s walking out to bat, and it might be putting away a big shot, it might be just getting off strike, it might be using his feet, whatever it may be, just finding a way to get down to the other end and bat time. He’s only scored one fifty so far, he’s just got to bat time, and that’s the only way you build confidence,” he added.

Former India opener Askash Chopra also gave his two cents during the discussion. He felt that Venkatesh’s dip in form could be caused by two other reasons.

“I completely agree that there is data, there is analysis, and there’s a lot of homework with regards to certain players, and he’s a top-order batter. So that’s one part of the story. But the second part is that since that fantastic [2021] season he’s batted at [Nos.] 5 for 6 for his stateside, for India, and now he’s back to opening, so yes, while he’s facing these form issues and found-out kind of issues, but the fact is that he’s been up and down the order too much,” Chopra said.

“Even now, KKR lost faith very quickly. So that’s one side, that he’s now maybe slightly confused in the head, ‘what am I supposed to do, am I an opener or am I a finisher?'”

He also thought that the fact that nobody else is performing for the team puts immense pressure on Venkatesh.

“Secondly, nobody else is [performing]. See, sometimes you could go through a bad patch but you have an opening partner who’s scoring runs. He makes your life simpler, easier, and gives you the allowance to just find form, sometimes, but that’s not happening, their batting is in slight disarray. You don’t have runs from a lot of them – once in a while from Shreyas Iyer but nobody has been consistent enough, so that just puts the added pressure on Venkatesh.”

Having to live up to being retained by the franchise, especially ahead of Shubman Gill, who is one of India’s brightest top-order talents (he has since moved to Gujarat Titans) could be another source of pressure for Venkatesh.

But Vettori thinks that retaining Venkatesh was a smart move from the Knight Riders, while Chopra said that if it was his call to make, he would retain Gill ahead of Venkatesh.

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