“I was a bright student, inclined towards academics. It’s generally the other way round, especially in orthodox South Indian families, where parents push kids to focus on studies. In my case, my mother pushed me towards playing cricket.”
Venkatesh Iyer, 26, must have been exhilarated over his mother’s decision, after being handed his IPL cap by the Kolkata Knight Riders.
Iyer had already made his T20 and 50-overs debuts for the Madhya Pradesh senior team and was captain of the state’s Under-23 team. A first-class debut was on the cards, and he let his instincts take over.
“I decided to give up my CA and pursue an MBA in finance,” Iyer says. “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).
“If it came down to training or classes, I’d often choose training, because my grasping power was good. But if I went to college for just two hours, I’d ensure my focus would completely be on those two lectures. They anyway gave me the cushion of lower attendance. That helped me pursue an internship too.
“During the off-season, when it rains in Indore, I’d play weekend league cricket in Chennai, and focus on my studies during the week. Everything was very smooth, there was nothing even worthy of time management. If anything, maybe I could have worked on my fitness better.”
Giving Up White-Collar Job
Iyer landed a job with the “Big Four” accounting firm Deloitte, in their India headquarters in Bengaluru in 2018. It was decision time again, and Iyer let go the offer, which he eventually wouldn’t regret, because he soon made his Ranji Trophy debut for Madhya Pradesh in December that year.
“I knew I wasn’t going to take up the offer,” he says. “I would’ve had to move cities, and that would’ve meant the end of my cricket. We all need a Plan B in life, right? So my MBA was just that. My parents anyway wanted me to complete a basic degree. Dad was a Human Resources consultant, mom spent many years in hospital administration. A basic degree is all they asked of me. With their help and of course the faculty at college, I was able to focus equally on both academics and cricket.”
While letting the job go wasn’t easy, Iyer justified it in his own way. “I had a good one-day season, I hadn’t got a hundred, but then we had two three-day practice games against Chhattisgarh. In the first game I got out cheaply, but the second one was the turning point,” he says. “I had my MBA internal exams, so I went to college, gave the exams, left early, jumped a few signals on the way, and when we got to the ground, we were 60 for 6.
“I was actually thinking about the answers I missed, things I could’ve written better, but as I took guard I went blank. I made a century in the game. Actually I ended on 96 overnight, so I came back the next day, finished my batting, I think I made 130 or 132, and then went back to college late in the afternoon to give my internals the next day. And soon after that game I got to make my Ranji debut.”
IIT or IIM that easy?
What do you think of Iyer’s comment? Is getting into these institutes that easy? Easier than getting an IPL Debut cap? Comment below your opinions.