In an exclusive conversation with SportsCafe, Wasim Jaffer has thrown his weight behind his fellow Mumbaikar Shreyas Iyer to be a part of India’s Test team sooner than later. Jaffer has further stated that the definition of opening has changed with the attacking batsmen dominating the scene.
While the Indian team management could have been blamed for so many choices even after the debacle that was the 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup, one thing that is worth applauding is their persistence with Shreyas Iyer. A modern-day batsman, who swears by his ability to attack and with finesse, Iyer has solved India’s No.4 problem for good while being the floater in T20Is as per the team’s needs.
It is fair to argue that the team India has missed out on his services for a couple of years while he could have been persisted with after India’s dominating ODI series win against South Africa in 2018 but that is a thing of the past. As a matter of fact, after making his debut for Mumbai in the 2014-15 season of Ranji Trophy, Iyer has 4592 first-class runs against his name that includes 12 three-digit scores at an average of 52.18.
Amassing 1321 runs at an average of 73.38, including a century in the final to help Mumbai win their 41st title in only his second season should have been enough to be in national selector’s good books but the fate hasn’t been kind to Iyer who has been haunted by his white-ball reputation. That is attested by his former teammate and domestic stalwart Wasim Jaffer as the former Indian opener backed him to do well in the red-ball format and urged the selectors to try him out.
“Shreyas is a very good player as he has got runs in the Ranji Trophy and India A. The guy is in some form now and is confident as well,” Jaffer told SportsCafe. “There is no harm to try him out in Test cricket. He backs his game and plays the same way no matter what the situation. He has scored 1300 runs for Mumbai in one season and whenever he has got the chance to play for India A he has done well. So I feel when the opportunity arises, he is the guy to look at.”
While the middle-order has always been a concern for India - both in red-ball and white-ball cricket - opening continues to be the place for problems of plenty. With India already making their intention of opening with Rohit clear, there have been many options in the form of Mayank Agarwal, Prithvi Shaw, and Shubman Gill lurking around with consistent performances.
In the limited-overs cricket, Rohit and Shikhar Dhawan continue to be the openers for India, with Shaw and Gill being on the line. Although KL Rahul has now moved down the order to accommodate the team’s needs, he can do the opening job just fine too. Jaffer feels that it is good for Indian cricket with the bench-strength ensuring there is no room for tired legs.
“The game has changed a lot and has become fast. A lot of batsmen play with strike rates of 80,90 and 100 in ODIs and even in Test cricket the strike-rates have gone up. But India has been really fortunate as Shikhar and Rohit form a formidable one-day partnership. KL Rahul, Prithvi Shaw, Mayank Agarwal, Shubman Gill are there and the bench strength is putting pressure on the guys who are playing and thus India is performing so well,” Jaffer added.
“That is a very good sign for any team. Rohit has turned into a Test opener and has done remarkably well. Mayank has had a good start to his Test career. Shikhar is a fabulous ODI and T20 player so I do not see any problem in the opening department as we have got so many players to choose from.”
Rohit’s elevation to the Test opening position reaped rich dividends, with the Mumbaikar dominating South Africa and Bangladesh bowling attacks in the last home season. A calf strain pulled him out of the ODI and Test series against New Zealand but he is set to continue his Virender Sehwag-kind of batting in Australia if the series goes ahead as planned. Jaffer believes if Rohit can survive that one hour, it will not be a difficult proposition for him to score comfortable runs even in the away series.
“He has adjusted really well and the kind of scores that he has put up in Test cricket is remarkable. Everyone knows that if he survives that one hour inititally, then any attack doesn’t look dangerous to him. So that is the quality of Rohit’s game. The challenge for him obviously is how he plays outside India. But he has enough international experience of ODIs and T20Is to understand the conditions and adjust accordingly. He knows how to make big hundreds and that is what an opener needs to do.”