Return of Shreyas Iyer - one for legacy-building, but the management can be little more patient

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Return of Shreyas Iyer - one for legacy-building, but the management can be little more patient

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Bastab K Parida

07/23/2019

“Koi feeling hi nahi aa raha hai. For me somehow it (fussing about Indian call) isn’t important. I am emotionless now. Someone comes and says, I am in the team, I am not in team, kuch farak nahi padhta (it doesn’t matter much).”

It was the last week of December 2018 and Shreyas Iyer was in no mood to talk about what more he needs to do so as to make his way back to the Indian team. In a free-whelming chat with Indian Express, he touched on the topics that Indian cricketers, especially the youngsters, have perennially avoided to take in any interviews. 

The mental state that he was going through was clearly understandable - he was ignored despite scoring truckloads of runs on the domestic circuit, and yet he saw his less-illustrious and less-accomplished India ‘A’ mates send him down the pecking order as they were awarded a spot in the side in the pretext of necessity to the team and at times, versatility. In cricket, or any sport for that matter, luck can be a cruel commodity and for little fault of his own, Iyer saw everything from a distance. 

“I have stopped thinking too much. It all started against West Indies. I told myself that I want to enjoy my life, mazaa karna hai. I don’t want selection issues to rule my happiness. Otherwise I would get frustrated and thinking about the future will ruin my present also. It’s better to enjoy life – selection is a temporary thing,” he had said in the same interview. 

This reveals a lot of things about the cricketer, who ever since the 2014 U-19 World Cup in the UAE has been touted as one for the future. That he was never fussed about it, or rather decided to put everything behind to focus to be a better version of himself, allowed him to play with a better mindset that would otherwise have crippled into his system. As his Whatsapp status says, “I am > I was” and of course, the selection in the Indian team for the Windies tour can be termed as the byproduct of each sweat that had gone on to the making of him - a star, even before he announced his arrival on the international stage against Sri Lanka in Dharamsala a little less than two years ago.

With the ball moving around, India were reduced to 16/4, and Iyer came out to bat. He failed spectacularly, scoring only nine runs, but managed to stay around for 27 balls to ensure that he was never a fluke. The four innings that followed yielded 201 runs more, and by the time, he played his last ODI for India, against South Africa in Centurion, Iyer had two half-centuries to his name, with an 88 against Sri Lanka. 

He did little wrong not to be given a long rope there but such was Indian cricket’s recency bias and the lack of patience, that Iyer couldn't get another look-in despite the problems at the number four spot increasingly becoming a sign of worry. And now, after he was finally picked - on the back of few brilliant innings against Windies A in the ongoing India A tour - there is a sense of optimism that it might finally be the beginning of a stretch that would give him every chance to stake his claim at the international level.

There are quite a number of thorns on his way, though. As has been the case in Indian cricket, having a long rope is as difficult as finding a watering hole in Serengeti, and if you are not Rohit Sharma, chances are you won’t get more than 10 bad matches in your entire career during the probation period. The team has Manish Pandey, Rishabh Pant, and especially with the return of Shikhar Dhawan, one assumes India will give further chances to KL Rahul in the middle-order as well. 

In such a scenario, India might do away with Kedar Jadhav from the playing XI - which they should have done during the team announcement on Sunday - and slot either of Iyer or Pandey at No.6 after Rahul and Pant. While this might seem like the ideal arrangement at a time talents in Indian cricket are brimming more than ever, the question arises, would it be fair to throw either of the duo to a position they have never played before? 

For Iyer to set a legacy, or at least try to be a regular set-up, it is imperative that he is in the team, instead of sitting out. It is a no brainer that he would try to latch onto the role and again, does he really have a choice? However, the task should’ve been with the selection committee to chalk out the plan in the first place. What benefit would Indian cricket gain by having Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma in the team for the series when you could have actually used it for bigger purposes? Would it not have been better to rest the duo? Anyway, they haven’t taken rest for a long time now - and this would have allowed the team to groom the youngsters in the right way. 

For a cricketer like Iyer, life has never been easy. Despite coming through the grinds of Mumbai cricket with elan and then establishing himself as one of the best batsmen in the country, having to prove himself time and time again, of course, must be difficult. After all, he has an astoundingly perfect technique but being subjected to such situations may have an impact on his thought process, and one would just wish it doesn’t affect his batting. But then again, cracking the code in Indian cricket has never been a cakewalk. One has to endure a fair share of bricks on his way and if Iyer can establish himself as a constant for the future, then it will be a success story worth telling.

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