by Gomathi Rajam
Starting his journey at the corridors with his dad, the 17-year-old, ST. Bede’s AIHSS, Chennai Vignesh S Iyer has incised a spot for himself at the professional level and is taking it up a notch for his dream of seeing himself at the higher levels of the game. Rattling between academics and his sport the youngster treads us through his sporting life.
Excerpts from the interview
Let’s start at the beginning – how old are you, how did you get into cricket and how you developed a passion for the sport?
I am 17 years old. I had great passion for cricket even when I was a toddler. I used to watch cricket on television. My father and I used to play with plastic ball in our apartment corridor. I showed signs of higher interest when I was studying class II in Bala Vidya Mandir and so my father signed me up at Adambakkam Cricket Academy.
Who was your cricketing idol while growing up? Whose batting do you admire the most?
I was inspired by many batsman like Rahul Dravid, Sehwag, Sachin. However I admire Virat Kohli and AB Devilers the most. Kohli for his great batting skills and the way he builds his innings and wins matches for India. Mental toughness and fitness are the key things that I learn from Kohli. On the other hand, AB is a versatile player who can do any role in a team. He is a great thinker and has got some incredible cricketing shots in his bag.
Who is your biggest supporter when it comes to cricket and how has your family/school played a role in your cricket career?
My parents and my coach Mr. Janakiraman have always had my back. My family has always stood by me and helped me balance my academics and my passion. I’ve studied in different schools and each of it has played a major role in shaping me as a cricketer. Till my 10th standard I studied at PSBB Millennium, those were my U-14 & 16 days. My school coach Mr. Kalyansundaram was very supportive and encouraged me to make decisions on my own and it helped me evolve as a cricketer. The teachers and Principal helped me in my academics even though I was not able to attend classes in X std. I joined St Bede’s in my 11th standard. Under the guidance of Mr. Satyanarayana Rao Sir and Mr Gerard (school PD), I was able to transform myself to the next level of playing for U19. I was never denied of any permission to play or practice by the Headmaster. The teachers were also equally supportive.
Since you’re an opener – what is the best feeling about being opener? What is the worst?
I have always enjoyed my role as an opener. The best feeling about opening the innings is, you can build a strong innings which helps the Team overall. It is a nice feeling to put up a good total on board which builds the overall morale of the team. I wouldn’t say worst, but it is challenging to face the early behavior of the wicket with the opposition of seamers in full throttle. I, however like this challenge. I have always been an opener at all levels of cricket as of now.
How would you describe your game to people who haven’t seen you play?
I am an opening batsman who can adapt to any format of the game viz., Multi day match, 50 over match and T20. I like to play straight to the merit of the ball. During my initial days I used to enjoy smacking a lot of sixers, however over the time, I have learnt to play shots along the ground.
How was your experience of playing for Tamil Nadu?
Playing for the state is the biggest recognition you can get as a youngster. I thoroughly enjoyed my responsibility under the guidance of my coach and trainers. I played the 4 day matches in different conditions across India and got the opportunity of facing the bowlers of other states.
What are your team expectations this year? Is there any important tournament that you should win?
Vino Mankad and Cooch Behar Trophies are the most coveted tournaments in U-19 which I would like to win for Tamil Nadu in 2019.
What about your studies? How do you balance them and cricket?
I am in Class XII. I always balance my time between academics and sports. I make sure I concentrate on my academics too and I am glad to have been supported by my parents and my friends in the school and in our apartment help me a lot.
Looking back at your early days, how did you think you evolved as a player and in what area do you feel you have improved the most? And what’s something you want to add to your game or get better at as you go into college studies?
I have been into cricket since I was 7 years old. My coach identified my talent during my younger days and gave me the opportunity to play alongside senior players. Apart from regular training, I have learnt and have been learning a lot of things like Building a longer innings which I have learnt over a period of time.Mental strength to stay longer from my senior players. Apart from my batting, I want to concentrate in my bowling as well as I Want to contribute to my team as a bowler as well.
Which school is your biggest rival team and do you have any memorable moment against them?
Inter school matches are always fantastic to play. I have had many memorable moments playing for PSBB Millennium and St Bede’s Schools. Though most of the schools in the city have good teams and are performing well, playing against Santhome was always memorable. I scored 123* runs for PSBB Millennium against Santhome in a TNCA U-16 match as it was a must win match to qualify to the quarter finals. The other innings which is the most memorable is scoring a century for St Bede’s against Santhome in the finals of Junior Chennai Super kings match and had the blessing of Rahul Dravid Sir as the chief guest.
What are the upcoming tournaments you are preparing for?
TNCA Ist Division (multi-day) matches. I represent Crombest.
What have been your major highlights/achievements in cricket?
Representing Tamil Nadu U 19.
Represented Tamil Nadu U-16.
Playing for TNCA Ist division.
Was selected to represent Junior Chennai super kings to play at Yorkshire. Scored a century in the finals.
Which is the game that you will never forget?
My fond memory is scoring my first century on 12-12-2012 in an under 12 tournament and I always cherish my first match in MA Chidambarm stadium playing for Crombest against UFCC. I am glad to have scored a 66 and shared an important matching winning opening partnership of 167.
What are some of your medium/short term goals? (within the next year or so)
My immediate goal is to perform well for my team, Crombest in the ongoing TNCA Ist division matches. My goal for the next season is to play well for the state in U-19. I also dream of playing for the India U-19.
What do you do to switch off from the game?
I play all games like badminton, chess which keeps me energized. I love to hang out with my friends in our apartment. I also go for swimming to keep myself fresh and fit.
Favorite sport other than Cricket: Badminton
TV Show: Big Boss
Your favourite past time? Relax at Home
If you could spend 24 hours in anyone’s shoes, who would it be and why? Dream of being in Prime Minister of India’s shoes. Being a prime minister of a diversified country is a challenge with geographical, language, cultural differences. Time management, prioritization, decision making, crisis management and leadership are some of which I would like to be in PM shoes.
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