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India vs West Indies | Shreyas Iyer Shows Once Again That He's The Real Deal

Eight innings, five half-centuries, including three in a row. With every passing game, Shreyas Iyer is taking big steps towards being the next big middle-order Indian batsman.

Karthik Lakshmanan |December 16, 2019, 5:20 PM IST
Shreyas Iyer plays a shot. BCCI/Twitter

Eight innings, five half-centuries, including three in a row. With every passing game, Shreyas Iyer is taking big steps towards being the next big middle-order Indian batsman.

He's perhaps making the team management and selectors rue not having him in their plans for the World Cup earlier this year. Prior to his return to the ODI side from the tour of West Indies, Iyer had made two half-centuries in five innings. But he was dropped too soon and India went with the likes of Suresh Raina, Ambati Rayudu, Dinesh Karthik and Vijay Shankar for the No. 4 spot.

But now, it's clearly Iyer's time. A few months ago, he even openly asked for a long run to settle into the side. Even if the words don't get him what he asked, his runs will. Iyer has ensured that with three consecutive half-centuries, the latest coming in the first ODI against West Indies in Chennai on Sunday.

Iyer made 70 off 88 that, along with Rishabh Pant's 71, helped India post 287. It wasn't enough, as Shimron Hetmyer and Shai Hope made light work of the chase with centuries, but India will be mighty pleased with their middle order coming together.

All the more crucially, the management will be happy that India posted a fairly good total despite the top three batsmen not scoring big. KL Rahul (6), Virat Kohli (4) and Rohit Sharma (36) fell early but Iyer and Pant added 114 for the fourth wicket. Virat Kohli said as much after the game.

"Very good signs for us with the performances of Iyer and Pant. Myself and Rohit (Sharma) not clicking today gave an opportunity for two youngsters to claim a spot. They played very smartly on a slow pitch," Kohli assessed.

Iyer walked in at a tricky time with India losing Rahul and Kohli in one over, struggling at 25 for 2. It's the kind of situation that India want their middle order batsmen to step up in. These scenarios have been rare in the last few years with Kohli, Rohit and Dhawan doing bulk of the scoring, but the rare situations have hurt India, like in the World Cup semifinal against New Zealand.

The first ODI was a lot less significant than that game, but it was still an opportunity for the middle order to handle such a scenario. Iyer did that to perfection.

Iyer took six balls to get off the mark, but the minute spin was introduced, he cashed in. He sent Hayden Walsh's first ball for four and got going, extending the reputation that he's terrific against spinners. Without much risk, he scored 22 off his first 25 balls, ensuring India don't feel the heat of the double-wicket over from Sheldon Cottrell.

Shreyas Iyer and Rishabh Pant scored half-centuries. BCCI/Twitter Shreyas Iyer and Rishabh Pant scored half-centuries. BCCI/Twitter

But with India losing Rohit to a soft dismissal, Iyer had to reassess his approach. He slowed down a touch, rebuilding the innings on a sluggish track with Pant. Runs came in singles and doubles; Iyer took 70 balls to reach his half-century while Pant settled.

But once Pant stepped on the accelerator, Iyer showed he could join in too. He welcomed Roston Chase's second spell with a big six over deep mid wicket immediately after Pant crossed his fifty. In all, Iyer scored 33 singles and five doubles apart from a six and five fours. Through it all, he seemed to be in perfect control of his approach in the middle overs.

"I feel it's a really good achievement for me. I would look to continue with the good form. It was important for us not to lose wicket so I didn't take risks. But when offie (Chase) came into the attack, I decided to take him on," Iyer said after his knock.

Iyer was shifting gears when he fell against the run of play, tamely chipping Alzarri Joseph to mid wicket. A century was there for the taking, but it wasn't to be.

Yet, there are enough signs that the maiden ODI ton won't take too long. That is an area which India have to build over the next four-year cycle - having batsmen who know how to make centuries beyond the top three. In the current XI, only Kedar Jadhav has the experience of scoring centuries (2) beyond the top three. Iyer's first challenge was to seal the No. 4 spot. Now that he has done it, his next challenge would be to get into the triple-figures list.

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