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Shreyas Iyer buys into Kolkata Knight Riders' 'mindset' and 'intensity' as new captain

Venky Mysore, the franchise's CEO, says they value Ajinkya Rahane's experience and class

Deivarayan Muthu
Kolkata Knight Riders' newly appointed captain Shreyas Iyer has embraced the side's explosive brand of cricket, which recently saw them surge to the IPL 2021 final, despite putting together just two wins in their first seven games. Their head coach Brendon McCullum embodied a similar attack-first approach when he captained New Zealand to the 2015 World Cup final.
"They [KKR] have always been aggressive and they've been fearless as a team," Shreyas told "Right from ball one, they like to throw the punch and put you on the back foot. And obviously, you need to have that kind of a mindset. I go through with the same mindset whenever I go out to bat, and when I want to lead as a captain, I want such kind of intensity from my players as well. If it comes from the coach, it's greater because the energy is basically provided by the coach and captain.
"I'm really happy with the mindset and planning that KKR have nourished over the years. Basically, I also have a similar kind of mindset - go out there and express ourselves as much as possible and not to have any regrets when we get off the field. Whatever you do, you do it for the team and you put yourself second - I think that's the mindset I like to focus on as captain."
Shreyas is fresh off twin half-centuries in the day-night Test against Sri Lanka and three successive, unbeaten fifties in the preceding T20I series.
He slotted in at No. 3 in all the three T20Is in the absence of Virat Kohli, turning in a Player-of-the-Series winning performance. In the IPL, 41 of his 87 innings have been at No. 3, from where he has 1134 runs at an average of 30.64 and a strike rate of 125.44.
Shreyas said that he prefers to bat at No. 3 for Knight Riders as well, although he was open to being flexible with his batting position and performing multiple roles for the team.
"You can't basically portray yourself as an anchor. It can differ as well," he said. "On a given day, I can be a power-hitter and there can be some other player who can play an anchor role. The situations and roles can change based on conditions, and you can't basically rely on a certain player to anchor the innings. If it's your day, you need to go all out and see to it that you win the match for the team.
"Basically, the responsibility has to be taken by all players in the team - to go out there and win the match and not rely on other players. For me, personally, I feel No. 3 is my position because I love to bat there and I've been batting at that position since very long. I've been very flexible; wherever the team wants me to bat at, I'm very comfortable at that and I'm ready to explore."
When asked about the batting position of the other Iyer - Venkatesh - Shreyas said that the team management is yet to decide that. In the second chunk of IPL 2021 in the UAE, Venkatesh emerged from the bench and provided Knight Riders with rollicking starts at the top, which culminated in a call-up to India's squad as a reserve player for the T20 World Cup before he made his white-ball debuts for India following that tournament.
He was particularly impressive as a finisher with the bat in the T20Is at home against West Indies, hitting 92 runs in three innings at an outstanding strike rate of 184.
India's captain Rohit Sharma had recently said that they want Venkatesh to find a place between Nos. 5 and 7 for the national team, stepping into Hardik Pandya's shoes. As for Shreyas, he believes that Venkatesh is capable of batting anywhere for Knight Riders.
"They've done wonders for themselves, and it's an honour to play alongside them"
Shreyas on having seniors like Pat Cummins, Aaron Finch and Ajinkya Rahane in the side
"The batting position that he [Venkatesh] will be batting at - we haven't definitely decided about it," Shreyas said. "Because we need to get out of quarantine and have chats with coaches and management regarding that. I had a brief chat with Venky when we were donning the Indian jersey - he's very flexible in terms of whatever position we put him to play. Obviously, he's done great in the opening slot for KKR last year, so that will be on the back of the mind.
"He's a team man and I've already seen that on the field - whenever I've asked him questions, [like] 'What do you feel about the team and what do you think the journey is going to be for us this season?' He's always positive and always talks about winning. That's the kind of character we need in our team who is ready to go out there and show that relentlessness throughout."
'Having Rahane is a massive advantage for us'
Shreyas is also hoping to pick the brains of the senior players and lean on their experience whenever he needs them. Pat Cummins, Australia's Test captain, Aaron Finch, Australia's white-ball captain who has also been a captain and senior mentor at Melbourne Renegades, and Ajinkya Rahane, the former India vice-captain, are among the experienced players at Knight Riders.
"It is a great honour to have them alongside me because they've achieved so many things playing for their own countries and also they've been playing all three formats for the last few years," Shreyas said. "So, yeah, they've done wonders for themselves, and it's an honour to play alongside [them].
"Definitely, if I get to a point where I think that this is a right time to take some advice from the senior-most player in the team... it's not only on the field, but off the field as well in terms of gelling up and trying to get some little advice in terms of how to manage the team, how to speak to youngsters, how to connect and gel well with seniors. All these aspects play a vital role and they can play an immense part in that."
Venky Mysore, Knight Riders' CEO, welcomed Rahane into their side and acknowledged that he would be part of the senior figures in the group.
"Ajinkya is another one who represents change and a very positive change for KKR," Mysore said. "Having someone of his experience and class in the set-up itself is a massive advantage for us. Shreyas talked about potentially leaning on some of the experienced players who are there when he needs them, and Ajinkya's one of them."

Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo