Ishan Kishan, Shreyas Iyer's road to redemption will be taxing, uncomfortable | Cricket - Hindustan Times
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Ishan Kishan, Shreyas Iyer's fall from grace: Road to redemption long, taxing and uncomfortable

Feb 29, 2024 01:29 PM IST

Where does all this leave Iyer and Kishan? In a pickle, for sure. Their respective roads to redemption will be long, arduous, taxing and uncomfortable.

More dramatic than swift, Shreyas Iyer and Ishan Kishan’s fall from grace shouldn’t have come as a surprise to those familiar with goings-on in Indian cricket. It’s one thing to take offence at slights, perceived or genuine; it’s quite another to defy ‘team orders’. In refusing to heed the Board of Control for Cricket in India’s diktat to play the Ranji Trophy despite being available, Iyer and Kishan were flirting with danger. The outcome was predictable – neither figures in BCCI Annual Contracts for 2023-24, despite both having pulled their weight at various stages.

Ishan Kishan and Shreyas Iyer (R)(BCCI)
Ishan Kishan and Shreyas Iyer (R)(BCCI)

Kishan, one of five Indians and only nine overall to have made a One-Day International double hundred, returned home midway through the tour of South Africa after finding himself surplus to requirements in all three formats, citing personal reasons. He resumed practice but wasn’t prepared to play for Jharkhand in the Ranji Trophy, which didn’t amuse the leadership group of Rohit Sharma, Rahul Dravid and chief selector Ajit Agarkar. Neither gentle nudges nor more forceful methods made an impact on the 25-year-old, whose international future is clearly at a crossroads.

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Iyer’s case is somewhat different. The team management moved heaven and earth to ensure his availability for the 50-over home World Cup; he went in cold, so to say, having played just five matches after back surgery but justified the faith with an excellent tournament even if, like most of his colleagues, he had a forgettable final. Either side of the World Cup, his Test form was ordinary and the axe fell, predictably, after the second Test against England in Visakhapatnam earlier this month.

Iyer had the opportunity to return to the Mumbai ranks and reiterate his hunger for the red-ball version which is often held, many say old-fashionedly, as the ultimate format of the game. He cited back issues while informing his home association of his unavailability. His bluff was called when the sports science team refuted any injury concerns. It’s believed that Iyer practicing with Kolkata Knight Riders at the same time when he was supposedly nursing an injury incensed the decision-makers further, the slap in the wrist immediate and with larger ramifications.

Having allowed players to do their bidding all these years, the BCCI finally woke up from its slumber and reiterated that it isn’t merely paying lip service to domestic red-ball cricket. Moves are said to be afoot to make the longer format more financially appealing to emerging players so that they aren’t entirely sucked into the cauldron of limited-overs play alone. Hopefully, there won’t be an overreach in a desperate bid to redress the balance, because through acts of omission, the BCCI too is in a way responsible for the current state of affairs.

Where does all this leave Iyer and Kishan, one might wonder. In a pickle, for sure. Their respective roads to redemption will be long, arduous, taxing and uncomfortable. Mere volume of runs for their states, especially in the Ranji Trophy, alone won’t suffice. They need to win back the confidence of the men who matter, and that won’t be a straightforward task, given how dim a view the core group has taken of their shenanigans which have left them, for the moment, as international outcasts.

It will be interesting to see how the duo responds to this snub. Iyer, 29, has been tasked with leading KKR’s challenge in the IPL starting next month. He can either be bogged down by the events of the last few days or use this as the spur to kickstart a new chapter by leading from the front, exploding doubts about his commitment and work ethic, and fusing bushels of runs with tactical brilliance. The swag that he has worn like a shadow must be complemented by humility and performance if he isn’t to be another victim of a possible battle of egos in which there can be only one winner.

Kishan faces an even more rocky route back. He is being seen as something of a problem child, piqued and puerile. Admittedly, his case should have been handled with greater sensitivity and empathy – he is but a very, very young man in a very, very high-pressure environment – but with each passing day, he alienated himself exponentially from the powers that be. If he aspires to return to national colours, he must show remorse and convince the leaders that that remorse is genuine. But that’s only one half, however significant, of the equation. It will also come down to what he does on the field. He has age on his side and Rohit in the Mumbai Indians dressing room. It’s up to him to make the most of both.

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