'He can be Hardik Pandya's back-up': Laxman names India youngster who can be groomed into a future 'utility all-rounder'
With the BCCI announcing a 16-member T20I squad for India which will face New Zealand in three matches later this month, former batter VVS Laxman welcomed the changes and is extremely glad to see some of the IPL performers getting rewarded for their splendid show. While some of the big players including Virat Kohli, Jasprit Bumrah have been rested, Harshal Patel, Venkatesh Iyer and Avesh Khan earned maiden call-ups, while Ruturaj Gaikwad has been given a go as well.
Harshal emerged as the leading wicket-taker of the IPL with 32 wickets for Royal Challengers Bangalore – the joint-highest in a single edition – whereas Avesh was next in line with 24 wickets. Laxman weighed in on their selection, saying that given the fact that next year's T20 World Cup would be played on the bouncier pitches of Australia, Harshal and Avesh's inclusions are welcome moves.
"I think they have rewarded the players who have done well in the IPL, which is the way forward keeping in mind that the World Cup is going to happen in Australia in one year's time. I think it is an excellent squad, not only in the batting department but also in the fast-bowling unit as well. There is Harshal Patel who is excellent in the death overs… there is Avesh Khan who has got express pace," Laxman said on Star Sports.
As for Iyer, who opened the innings for Kolkata Knight Riders and scored 370 runs from 10 matches, Laxman has identified a new role for the 26-year-old left-handed batter. Laxman pointed out that since the race for the opening slot is already intense, Iyer could be made to bat in the middle-order along with bowling a few overs to give India a handy all-round option.
"I just want someone like Venkatesh Iyer to bat out of his position. India have got five openers in that squad and you know that Ishan Kishan, KL Rahul and Rohit Sharma are your front-runners for that spot. So Venkatesh Iyer needs to fit but not in the top order," added Laxman.
"You want him to bat at No. 5 or No. 6, and also chip in with the bowling, probably a couple of overs or more and make him get used to that position. He could be the back-up to Hardik Pandya. You can develop Venkatesh Iyer as a utility all-rounder."