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India vs West Indies: Iyer Makes a Firm Case for Middle-Order Berth

Karthik Lakshmanan |August 12, 2019, 1:14 PM IST
India vs West Indies: Iyer Makes a Firm Case for Middle-Order Berth

More than the result, the series lead and Virat Kohli getting back to scoring centuries after a brief hiatus, India will be most pleased with one of their potential middle-order future's performance in the second ODI against West Indies. Shreyas Iyer made 71 off 68, and looked a perfect fit in the middle order that's desperate for a steady, proper batsman.

It's not even like this is the first time Iyer has made an impression in India colours. Prior to this knock, he has hit two half-centuries in five ODI innings, both coming against Sri Lanka towards the end of 2017. Iyer then had a couple of starts in the tour of South Africa, but was for some reason not picked after that tour. India went with the likes of Suresh Raina, Ambati Rayudu, Dinesh Karthik and Vijay Shankar.

But there's every chance that Iyer will now be given a long run, as he has openly asked for. Even if the words don't get him what he asked, his runs will. Iyer ensured that on Sunday.

The best part of Iyer's knock was the effortless manner in which he kept runs flowing. It wasn't like he was scoring runs in boundaries - he raced to 50 off 49 balls, but had scored only four boundaries till then. Overall, he hit only five fours and a six out of his 71.

Iyer scored 32 singles, and played only 22 dot balls. His dot-ball percentage was even better than Virat Kohli's; the Indian captain played 57 dots off his 125 balls.

Iyer also came in at a tricky time. India had a good start but with Rohit Sharma and Rishabh Pant not converting starts, they were reduced to 101 for 3 with a shaky middle order.

Before Iyer came in, Pant had struggled to get going. The wicketkeeper was tied down by Roston Chase, and made 20 off 35 before being bowled by Carlos Brathwaite. 22 off his 35 balls were dots, which resulted in the pressure that ultimately got him. Rohit too had played 23 dots in his 34 balls.

All that changed as soon as Iyer came in, as he rotated strike effortlessly. He would drop the ball with soft hands for quick singles, or dab to third man and drive down the ground for easier ones. It was just the kind of batting that Kohli wanted.

"He (Iyer) is a very confident guy and has the right attitude," Kohli said after the game. "Really got the tempo going and took the pressure of me. After I got out, he got the extra runs as well."

Iyer showed he also has some cheeky strokes. The ramp shot he played off Roach over the keeper was evidence, but his main focus through the 125-run stand with Kohli was on just normal batting. It was only after Kohli fell did Iyer hit his first aerial shot - a six over long on off Holder.

Iyer has taken his chance, and his next challenge will be to maintain consistency.

"It was a fruitful day. I knew I was going to do well, I played for India A and I played in these grounds, paced my innings well and think it went well," he said. "I want to stay in the team for a while, the consistency is always important, I want to play well and contribute to the team."

For that, though, the selectors and team management too should show consistency. If all that falls in place, India could get the solid middle order batsman they've been looking for.

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