Team India’s Shreyas Iyer has become the talk of the town and the positivity surrounding him is gaining more depth among fans and pundits alike.
More importantly, the team management is looking to take the positives after backing Iyer in both formats since the 2019 World Cup. In the ongoing T20I series against New Zealand, Iyer’s blossoming into something more collective and calculative are attributes that have been India’s major strengths.
A year ago, the Indian cricket team had thought the long-serving problem at number four in batting had been solved. Ambati Rayudu struck a well-timed 90 in the five-match ODI series.
There was a sense of comfort with the ICC World Cup 2019 in fray back then. However, Just when Rayudu looked to have cracked the code, a poor series against Australia saw his dreams get quashed.
India’s three-dimensional Vijay Shankar also didn’t go to make the number four place his own. There was a sense of concern post the World Cup as to how will India cope up.
With India playing West Indies in a T20Is and ODIs right after the World Cup, the BCCI selectors got the chance to get in someone and then see how he shapes up with a lot of cricket that would be on offer up till the ICC T20 World Cup.
Iyer was given the nod and many backed him to settle in as time followed. The chance paid off as the management ticked this slot after years of uncertainty surrounding the same.
Several series later, Iyer has grown from strength to strength and the value he has provided to the side is being witnessed in recent times.
To hand India a 2-0 cushion in the five-match series away from home is a major bonus. To add on that, the manner in which Iyer fathomed India’s chases in both the games makes him characteristically strong.
The timing of this is also a plus for the side with the World T20 in mind. The team hasn’t rotated Iyer’s position much and sees him as a principle number four.
Just like captain Virat Kohli is a designated number three, in Iyer a position has been fixed. So far he gets plenty of marks for passing tests.
Iyer has the instincts to finish off games
This is one aspect of Iyer’s game that will please the team management at large. In the first T20I at Eden Park in Auckland, India were cruising along well in a chase of 200-plus.
However, the side lost the well set Kohli and Rahul in quick succession and India were reeling at 121/3. Generally, India often struggled whenever MS Dhoni wasn’t around during these very phases.
But we saw Iyer look so composed the moment he came on. In the second delivery he faced, a good length ball was smashed to the boundary.
Knowing that India cannot let the momentum go by in a stiff run chase, Iyer knew he had to be composed. And the right-handed batsman achieved the same.
He went on to produce an innings of substance and quality. The 58-run unbeaten knock off just 29 balls showed how exactly the player knew of how to master the chase.
He hit five fours and three sixes. Over time, we have seen he can hit big sixes at ease and in a small stadium like Eden Park, the offerings just got easier.
Moreover, his partnership with the experienced Manish Pandey helped India get the job done.
And then in the second T20I, Iyer showed his intact of a finisher yet again. India were once again in a spot of bother. They lost Rohit Sharma and Kohli early.
However, Iyer (44) forged a 86-run stand with KL Rahul to help India conquer the Kiwis once again at Eden Park. This time the chase was relatively lower with Kiwis managing 132/5.
On a two-paced wicket, Iyer showed his prowess and got India home.
Maturity can be seen in Iyer’s approach
Iyer is just 26 years of age and there is that sense of time factor riding on him. Both the player and the team management know that time can be a strong factor here in getting the maximum out of the player.
The maturity shown by Iyer in both the games comes from the hard work since the moment he stepped on to the field during the limited-overs series against West Indies in August 2019.
Iyer looks focused and that is a something we need to notice.
Apart from that, he can go that extra mile and be the player that can power India in crucial phases.
He runs well between the wickets, has the knack of playing shots either side of the wicket and lastly, the charisma of clearing the ropes makes him complete.
Over time we have seen him grow rapidly for the Delhi Capitals in the Indian Premier League (IPL). Over the last two seasons, Iyer’s performances have been impressive.
And building on the confidence derived, he has slowly set himself at place in the Indian side. Iyer has the luxury of having someone like a Kohli to take inputs from.
Kohli, who is the best chaser in cricket, can help Iyer tremendously and give him the platform to succeed.
The skipper has backed the player and is confident that he is the right man to take the team past the line on many occasions.
In ODIs, Iyer has got some important half-centuries. The moment when he scores a hundred, the things will change for him rapidly.
At the moment, he looks at sync with both formats and that in turn helps Team India massively.
In Iyer, India have found a solution at number four
In 15 ODIs, Iyer has amassed 531 runs at 44.25 with a best of 88. Since making a return to the side against WI, his scores read 71, 65, 70, 53, 7, 4, 7, 44*.
The last knock was against Australia in the series decider in Bengaluru this month. In that match as well, India were chasing a 287-run target.
So we have seen in there successive matches across formats, Iyer have been someone who has come in and settled in well to chase games.
In 19 T20Is, the right-handed batsman has amassed 366 runs at 28.15. His strike-rate of 136.15 suits the number four role well. Since August 2019, he has won India several games in the format.
What this does is that it makes Kohli more assured and comfortable. Iyer has come in and broken the shackles. This is something India needed badly.
It is safe to say, Iyer has taken the pressure off Kohli.
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