It is a question of great dichotomy even though it seems simpler at heart. Shreyas Iyer, one of the finest batsmen to have emerged in the Post-IPL wave in Indian cricket, is an excellent player, but does he show enough accountability in T20s? What about Suryakumar Yadav then?
When the Indian team was juggling balls for a settled No.4 batsman in the lead up to the World Cup, they had someone doing the job in an effervescent manner, much before any 3D debate kick-started. Shreyas Iyer broke the door, scored a couple of meticulous fifties, showed great resilience in the away tour against South Africa but somehow, Ambati Rayudu thwarted him from the role after 2018 IPL. Perhaps it was right, for what Rayudu did in that IPL, but Iyer would surely have been gutted for not having landed the role even after the management moved on from Rayudu ahead of the World Cup in a somewhat controversial manner.
If anything, it was a yardstick of India’s archaic philosophy, deep-rooted in multiple levels, and the same barometer has now ensured Shreyas Iyer being part of the Indian side in T20 cricket, post-2019 World Cup clean-up. It is a dramatic turn-around for his fortune but the oddity in the timing has left a dire aftertaste. Iyer is a terrific batsman in the 50-over format, where he can be a great support to Virat Kohli in managing chaos in the middle-overs, but the street-smartness can’t guarantee a role in a format like T20s which has evolved in the last decade, taking anchors off the chart.
The ongoing Indian Premier League serves as a great indicator of how things have shaped up in the last half a decade. In that context alone, it is baffling that someone like Suryakumar Yadav is uncapped at the international level while the likes of Manish Pandey and Iyer or heck, Virat Kohli for that matter, is a regular in the shortest format. Delhi Capitals might boast of a great line-up of Indian talents but sans Rishabh Pant, none has equipped themselves to T20 cricket as successfully. Prithivi Shaw, Shikhar Dhawan and Iyer himself can do the anchor job to perfection - with an occasional burst of brilliance where the strike rate goes beyond 150 SR - but mostly, their conservative style of play adds the pressure on Pant, who is easily one of the finest six-hitters in the sport going around.
In the match against Chennai Super Kings, Iyer came out to bat just after Prithvi Shaw’s dismissal and even though the side had already crossed the 100-run barrier by the 13th over, he failed to take off. What transpired after that was a show of downgraded batting performance, with the skipper accumulating just 26 runs off 22 balls, ensuring his side finished with a total of 175 runs. Sure enough, the dew was not prevalent to make batting easier but Iyer’s innings gave the struggling CSK spinners a chance to make a comeback and not the other way around.
In the low-scoring SRH encounter, the situation demanded an even better appraisal of things, with both the openers struggling to tackle Hyderabad pace. But Iyer seemed to be in no hurry with a 21-ball 17, ending the run-chase right there. This time, it was against one of his strongest suits of batting- leg-spinners - and such was his strangulation that DC never got going after that. Ironically, it was not one-off and a constant pattern of Iyer against whom captains have used quality pace successfully to suck the juice out of him in the middle overs.
Had he been able to do justice to the starts, it would have been a different story altogether. But as a matter of fact, since the 2018 IPL, in the period between Over No.8 to Over No.17, the Mumbaikar has scored only 529 runs from 421 deliveries at an average of 26.4 and an SR of 125.7. Apart from left-arm wrist spinners, against whom he strikes at 218.2, Iyer’s SR against all kinds of bowlers falls quite dramatically.
It is only against right-arm off-break bowlers he averages 64.4 in this period - an accent of almost 24 than his average against Left-arm Orthodox spinners which is his second best. That makes him a one-trick pony and more prone to being dismissed after being set in the middle in the shortest format, unlike his heroics in the 50-overs game, a glimpse of which we have seen during India’s New Zealand tour.
On the other hand, Surya Kumar Yadav is a delight to watch in T20s and his impact goes well beyond how many runs he scores. He has one of the lowest dot ball percentages while hitting boundaries for fun both inside the powerplay and against spinners in the middle-overs. Unlike Iyer, SKY’s ability to negotiate both pacers and spinners in the middle overs allows the teams a great deal of certainty as he showed against Kolkata Knight Riders in a very effective manner.
Quinton de Kock’s dismissal in the second over of the innings brought a sense of ambiguity to the Mumbai Indians line-up, but Yadav ensured that Rohit had a confident partner to play around. Even though Rohit Sharma initially took his time to settle down, which resulted in Mumbai facing 17 dot balls in the powerplay, they were at 59/1 in 6 overs, largely down to Suryakumar Yadav not being bogged down by the change in pace on offer.
One of the tallest run-scorers in the Indian Premier League over the last half a decade, it goes on to show the impact SKY has over the years as a pure modern T20 cricketer, who might not be as classy as Shreyas but surely fits the top-order bill better than him. This, in no way, to prove that Iyer lacks the skill but the temperament surely has not been up to the mark. An honest process to figure out the same will keep him in good stead for the future but as of now, he shouldn’t be ahead of SKY in the T20 pecking order.