12,080.85-45.05
Stock Analysis, IPO, Mutual Funds, Bonds & More

Cricket: Finally, India have a No. 4

Team India’s middle-order muddle is only well known, and perhaps reached a crescendo in 2019 when it became a key factor in their ODI World Cup semi-final exit. Nearly 12 different batsmen had been trialled at number four during the two-year experimentation phase before that tournament — all of it had come to nought with an inexperienced Rishabh Pant handed a job he couldn’t execute.

ET CONTRIBUTORS|
Last Updated: Jan 25, 2020, 12.04 AM IST
0Comments
Getty Images
Shreys---Getty
Shreyas Iyer in action
Tax Calculator
By Chetan Narula

AUCKLAND: As the ball sailed over mid-wicket for six, Shreyas Iyer exulted in the full view of Eden Park faithful. Riding on his swashbuckling 58 not out off 29 balls, India chased down their fourth 200-plus total in T20I cricket – the most for any team. The significance of this moment, however, was far greater than a mere statistic.

Team India’s middle-order muddle is only well known, and perhaps reached a crescendo in 2019 when it became a key factor in their ODI World Cup semi-final exit. Nearly 12 different batsmen had been trialled at number four during the two-year experimentation phase before that tournament — all of it had come to nought with an inexperienced Rishabh Pant handed a job he couldn’t execute.

Worryingly enough, a similar pattern had occurred since that World Cup with constant changes rung in, only this time in the guise of T20 experimentation. Five different batsmen have batted at number four or below against South Africa, West Indies, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. So much so, former cricketer Virender Sehwag criticised this constant choppingchanging in the playing eleven just as the team boarded for New Zealand.

There is one standout difference between the ODI and T20 experimentation though. Iyer has grabbed the opportunity that others didn’t latch on to. Irrespective of the expecwhite-ball format he is picked for, the Mumbai batsman has scored runs. So much so, he has been a regular feature for the Men in Blue since last summer. Post the World Cup, India have played 9 ODIs and 15 T20Is, both at home and away. Iyer has been a part of all but three T20 games in the Caribbean.

A consistent run with the bat has reaped this reward for him. Prior to this New Zealand tour, Iyer averaged 45.85 in 8 ODI innings with four half-centuries and 34.14 in 11 T20I innings. In this interim, only Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli and KL Rahul have managed a similarly consistent streak of runs, and all three of them are top-order batsmen. That last sentence is important in this coming-of-age story about Iyer. Adding to those runs in the past seven months, he has now started this tour with a bang – a second T20I half-century, a match-winning knock, and an innings of substance from the middle that potentially puts to rest a long-pending search. Yes, India can finally look beyond the top-three and say they have a middle-order batsman with some guarantee. “The way he finished it off, the way he celebrated, the responsibility of being an IPL captain, he has understood how to finish off the games. He showed that responsibility in the ODIs too (against Australia). These are great signs for us,” said KL Rahul after the first T20I, highlighting Iyer’s impact in the current scheme of things.

The significance of leadership in IPL cannot be undermined. As cricketers talk eloquently how they have grown as individuals while rubbing shoulders with the best, the leadership angle cannot be discarded. It added a matured streak to Virat Kohli’s game, and a responsibility to Rohit Sharma’s. It isn’t too much of a stretch that something similar is happening for both Rahul and Iyer at their respective franchises. Indeed, we are witnessing the formation of India’s next think-tank in all probability.

Even so, there is time yet. For the moment, it is about Iyer growing into a role that can be pinned to him alone. He has the tools that are needed – a calm and calculative head that assesses the situation with ease, an array of strokes, a footwork that can bamboozle the bowlers, and the fortitude to finish off the innings whether batting first or second. The fact that he has played consistently for the last seven months has only helped nurture his strengths – a key factor that shouldn’t be lost on the team management.

To be fair, they have tried this approach with Rishabh Pant, and it is yet to come to fruition. Pant’s case is another debate altogether. In this current scenario at least, Team India can look beyond the top-three and assert another batsman as their strength. After long last, that massive hole in the middle order – left gaping since Yuvraj Singh’s exit – could be filled up.
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this column are that of the writer. The facts and opinions expressed here do not reflect the views of www.economictimes.com.)

Also Read

Cricket: Are India there yet?

Pragyan Ojha retires from international cricket

Cricket: Shadow tours are a good idea

Cricket: Manish Pandey finds his spot

Rohit Sharma wins ICC ODI Cricketer of the Year award, Kohli gets 'Spirit of Cricket' accolade

Comments
Add Your Comments
Commenting feature is disabled in your country/region.

Other useful Links


Copyright © 2020 Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd. All rights reserved. For reprint rights: Times Syndication Service