CHENNAI: Finally, he’s likely to get a chance, that too after nearly nine months. It can’t be called fair. But dead rubber or not, wearing India’s blues in Chennai — which looks likely at the moment — on Sunday will be of some comfort to Shreyas Iyer. Leading run-scorer for Mumbai in a victorious Vijay Hazare Trophy campaign and a blistering 114-ball 148 in the Deodhar Trophy final (albeit in a losing cause) last month. The 23-year-old hasn’t really been putting a foot wrong of late.
It’s not just these two achievements which beget a case for Iyer being given a few trials to assess if he could also be an alternative solution for India’s middle-order woes in the 50-over format. Ambati Rayudu is No 4 for the moment. Even Manish Pandey has been handed a good bit of rope, his lukewarm performances notwithstanding. But, cricket will not cease to exist after the end of the World Cup, when Rayudu turns 34. With all this in mind, it’s ironic that India are looking at giving Iyer a go in the last T20I (and perhaps in the same format in Australia), instead of a few more matches.
“He’s talented, no doubt. He’s also the kind of batsman who can floor the pedal without taking up too many balls,” remarked former India batsman and selector Anshuman Gaekwad. “At such a young age, he’s got good experience. Which is why I’d say that India missed a trick by not giving him a run during the ODIs. They had enough matches to do that. It’s good that the World Cup is India’s only focus, but they need to also think about the after part. That’s where a batsman like Iyer fits in, as a long-term No 4.”
Why Gaekwad’s observation began with particular emphasis on Iyer’s aggression is quite evident from his cricketing numbers. The right-hander is probably one among not so many to have similar, solid strike-rates across all formats, with runs to boot. That was one of the major reasons behind Iyer’s him into the national team.
Even in the five ODIs he’s batted in, he’s notched up two fifties. His IPL form this time around may have not as mind-boggling as Rishabh Pant’s, but the Delhi Daredevils stand-in skipper had a solid 411 runs at a strike rate of 132.58.
But when you try and juxtapose these numbers with the number of call-ups Iyer has received after the South Africa ODIs (where he last played an international), things don’t make sense. None during the white-ball leg in England or Asia Cup. Not even Nidahas Trophy.“Quite a few guys who’ve been given chances in the middle-order over the last year or so haven’t really set the stage on fire,” observes Gaekwad. “Considering that, the selectors and management should have looked at Iyer. They don’t have to thrust him at No 4 to begin with. His aggression makes him ideal for even No 5 or 6.”There’s about a fortnight left for India’s T20Is in Australia. Perhaps those matches may see the rise of a new No 4, one who’s here to stay for a firstname.lastname@example.org