Ever since his comeback into the Indian team after the 2019 World Cup, Shreyas Iyer has been among the most consistent batsmen in the side, flying under the radar perhaps given the exploits of Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul.
In nine ODIs since August 2019, when Iyer returned to the team, he has averaged 53, with a strike rate of 104.95 (the best among Indians who have faced at least 100 balls since then). In 16 T20Is in the same period, Iyer has an average of 33.40 at a strike rate of 138.01. He is placed third and fourth on the highest run-scorers’ lists for ODIs and T20Is respectively since August, and quietly, Iyer has become an important member of a batting line-up he couldn’t break into just a year ago.
Iyer has always had confidence in himself, so when his first ODI century didn’t result in a win for India, he was unperturbed.
“I am very happy but if it had ended on a winning note I would have been even happier. But it’s the first of many, so I’ll take it in my stride and see to it that in the next matches, I finish on the winning side,” Iyer said at the press conference after India’s four-wicket defeat to New Zealand in the first ODI on Wednesday.
That India lost despite putting on a mighty 347 for 4 didn’t cause any undue angst within the side.
“We just sat and everybody was in their own zone. It didn’t matter to be honest. It’s just a loss and we have faced that before as well in our life,” Iyer said. “It’s not that we are facing it for the first time. So everybody is in their normal zone and it’s not something that hasn’t happened before. We’ve got that confidence in our team and in ourselves that we are going to bounce back strong. We have done in the past, so we’ve just got to take the positives from this game and move forward.”
“It’s just a loss and we have faced that before as well in our life. We’ve got that confidence in our team and in ourselves that we are going to bounce back strong.”
Iyer gave credit to New Zealand’s batsmen for hunting down a tall target, while also explaining how the surface at Seddon Park in Hamilton had changed as the game went on. Iyer’s own innings started slowly; he took 10 balls to get off the mark and he was on 11 off 28 at one point, having joined Kohli with India 54 for 2 in the ninth over. He eventually ended with 103 off 107, and shared stands of 102 for the third wicket and 136 for the fourth wicket in under 17 overs, with Rahul.
“The pitch had become very good in the second innings. It was coming onto the bat and the dew factor also played an important role in this game,” Iyer said. “They batted really well, so credit has to definitely go to them for the chase.
“It (the ball) was stopping and coming,” he said about batting in the first innings. “There was a variable bounce on the wicket, so we (Kohli and he) just decided that we need to take this phase and build a partnership. I’m really glad we took that situation completely out and had a partnership of 100, me and Virat. That set up momentum for the next batsman who came in and we ended up scoring 348 (347) which is a really good total. I’m really happy the way I planned my innings. I was keeping patient and I had that self-belief that once I cross a certain mark, I’ll be able to cover all the balls I played as dots.
“Talking about KL Rahul, he’s been batting magnificently well. The way he’s seeing the ball… the time he came in and hit his first six, I literally asked him on the field, ‘Are you seeing the ball like a football?’ He just nodded and laughed. He’s been in tremendous touch and there’s lots to learn from him as well, as a batsman, the way he really plans his innings and then takes on the bowler.”
Iyer also defended India’s fielding, which has seen several lapses and dropped chances on the tour of New Zealand, both in T20Is and the lone ODI so far.
“Everybody goes through a bad day,” he said. “I personally feel we are a very good fielding side, and we have to try and hit the target (stumps) so that we create that momentum on the field. We need to cheer up the bowlers and all the fielders have be there in the game. So all these overthrows and all, it’s part of the game because the bowlers keep thinking of what they’ll bowl the next ball, and at the same time, it’s the fielders’ responsibility to back up obviously.
“There are one or two instances that happened in the previous game, there’s a lot to learn from that. Obviously we are working hard on our fielding, it’s not that we are just giving up on the field. Even if you see that there are some places we need to improve, we have been doing really well. We have taken some amazing catches and run-outs in this game.”