Kept out of WC squad, Iyer has a point to prove
Misfortune arrived in full force for Shreyas Iyer when he left the field holding his dislocated shoulder this March in an ODI against England.
There’s never a good time for an injury, but this one set in motion perhaps the most difficult period in Iyer’s fledgling career. First, Rishabh Pant took over as captain of Delhi Capitals for the first half of the IPL while Iyer was recovering. But with the team standing on top of the standings as the league resumed in UAE after being suspended midway during India’s second wave, the Capitals decided to stick to Pant in the leadership role even as Iyer made his return. In between these two events, Iyer, who was looking in good touch before his injury, saw his chances of playing in his maiden World Cup vanish when he was kept out of the main squad picked for the October tournament.
So, when Iyer marked his guard on Wednesday to face his first ball in six months as the Capitals took on Sunrisers Hyderabad, a lot would have been on his mind.
A confident flick past mid-wicket got him off the mark against Jason Holder but his initial stay at the crease was edgy. Batting at nine runs off the first 14 balls he faced with a few plays and misses, Iyer was in search of a stroke to release the pressure.
It arrived in the form of a six over mid-wicket against the best spinner in the T20 business –Rashid Khan. It helped that Iyer is particularly good at reading spinners, so he had no problem latching on to Khan’s googly. Another stroke of luck for Iyer, who deserved some, was that the match situation allowed him enough time to find his feet. With Shikhar Dhawan and then Pant finding boundaries from the other end, Iyer slowly began to regain touch. By the time he hit the winning runs to stay unbeaten on 47 (41), Iyer had started to free his arms—and his mind too. The winning stroke was a six with Iyer characteristically using the crease, moving past off-stump to send Holder over long on. “The hunger has gone up. I am not satisfied, nor content,” he said after the match.
This IPL then is set up for Iyer to answer those who questioned his abilities enough to not include him in the World Cup squad. Delhi hasn’t had a more balanced and dangerous squad than this to break their title drought.
“I feel my performance was very good, so I was in the mindset that I would be selected. On my part I gave my best effort but the selection process didn’t go my way,” he told the broadcasters. “But I told myself that I will get my chance in the future…the World Cup is always an amazing feeling.”
It was clear that Iyer was gamely trying to temper his disappointment.
With no fast bowling muscles at play, Iyer could have been considered for the World Cup straight out of injury. It could be that he simply didn’t fit into India’s power-packed batting line up with so many big names. He needed to do more to stand out in that crowd, a chance his injured shoulder took away from him.
In the series before he got injured, Iyer had played one of his better T20 knocks—37 (18) against England at Ahmedabad—with “intent” written all over it.
“My role is based on the situation,” he said. But, my intent has always been positive. I see to it that I go with that aggressive nature when I come in irrespective of the situation we are facing.”
Iyer, who is a reserve for the World Cup, knows that
there’s only one track the T20 game now runs on—super fast. It’s the template the Indian team is chasing as well. In this IPL, Iyer may get his chance to make up for lost time at breakneck speed and push the Capitals to new heights.