T20 World Cup 2021: Venkatesh Iyer to replace Hardik Pandya in Team India squad? Sunil Gavaskar backs KKR all-rounder

Mumbai Indians head coach Mahela Jayawardene on Friday (October 1) asserted that his team will not rush Hardik Pandya into bowling in the ongoing IPL 2021 as he could ‘struggle’ if pushed too hard and might not be an asset even as a batsman. He also said that the possibility of Pandya bowling in the tournament will be evaluated on a daily basis.

“Whether he can bowl in the IPL or not is something that we will have to look it on a daily basis and evaluate and then see how he progresses. But at the moment, if you push too hard, it might be an issue where you might even struggle and might not be an asset even as a batsman. So that’s something we will have to take into account and with consideration with all concerned parties and take it a day at a time,” said Jayawardene in a virtual pre-match press conference ahead of Mumbai’s clash with Delhi Capitals on Saturday.

Notably, after missing the first two matches in the second leg of the tournament in the UAE, Pandya has featured for Mumbai as a pure batsman. The all-rounder hadn’t bowled in the first leg of the tournament in India as well due to niggle issues.

Meanwhile, Hardik’s fitness issues have reportedly left BCCI scratching their head ahead of the upcoming ICC T20 World Cup, which is scheduled to take place from October 17 in UAE, as Indian team is currently lacking a proper all-rounder.

With this development, Kolkata Knight Riders’ all-rounder Venkatesh Iyer is being dubbed as frontrunner to replace Hardik Pandya in the Team India squad for the T20 World Cup.

Interestingly, Iyer has lit up the IPL 2021, scoring 193 runs in just five games including two fifties. The left-hander, who bowls medium pace, has also chipped in with three wickets and has bowled the difficult overs for KKR in Andre Russell’s absence.

Moreover, legendary cricketer Sunil Gavaskar lavished praise on Iyer after being mightily impressed by his all-round skills and said that the 26-year-old ‘can be the all-rounder India is looking for’.

“In Venkatesh Iyer, Kolkata have unearthed a player who can be the all-rounder that India is looking for. His bowing is not express, but he gets the yorker right more than not and doesn’t let the batsman slog him. As a batsman, he plays upright, which gets into a great position to play the short ball, and he drives beautifully through the off-side like all left-handers seem to do,” Gavaskar wrote in his latest column for the Times of India.

Also, KKR coach Brendon McCullum on Friday praised Iyer and said, “Venkatesh Iyer is definitely an all-rounder. It is not just his cricketing ability, it is his mindset and cricketing brain. He has a great perspective on the sport and he is a guy with huge ambitions, he has a great future as a genuine all-rounder. I think he is one of those cricketers who is going to get better and better. I think what he has done so far shows he belongs at this level.”

It is worth mentioning that India can make changes in the T20 World Cup squad before October 10 as per ICC rules. The Men in Blue will open their campaign against arch-rivals Pakistan on October 24.

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Sagar Biswas

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