India middle-order batsman Shreyas Iyer reposed the faith shown in him, by the selectors and the team management at the No.4 spot – at least in the T20I format – as he came up with the goods when it mattered and took his side over the line against New Zealand on Friday at Auckland during the first T20I. He scored 58* off 29 balls, but more importantly held his nerves during the tense big 204-chase. Not only has this victory given the tourists the right start going into the big tour, but it seems to have also sorted India’s middle-order muddle.
The 25-year-old walked in at the dismissal of KL Rahul in the 10th over with the score on 115. At that stage, he joined India skipper Virat Kohli and the side needed 94 off 10 overs. Soon Kohli was dismissed in the 12th over and New Zealand were clawing back in the game. Shivam Dube also could not give Iyer company as he was dismissed in the 14th over with India on 142, needing 62 more to win from 40 balls. All of this did not bother Iyer as he took his game to the next level and never allowed a dip in the run-rate.
MIDDLE ORDER SORTED
The middle-order problem is nothing new for India in white-ball cricket. From Vijay Shankar to Rishabh Pant to KL Rahul, they have tried many players, but are yet to finalise somebody at that crucial position for a long time. The number four position is extremely important in limited-overs cricket. It is like the No. 3 spot in Tests, you need a specialist who can adapt, and do that quickly. Over the last few games, Iyer has shown he has it in him to do that. He has the big shots and can also manoeuvre the bowling and if required play with the bowler’s mind, which good player often do.
TOYING WITH SOUTHEE
For example, with India needing 18 off 12 balls in today’s match, Iyer gave himself room and slapped a short ball from Tim Southee over the long-off for a six. Anticipating a correction in line and length, Iyer went inside the line on this occasion and played the ball over backward square leg for a boundary. With those two shots, he calmed the nerves in the dressing-room and wrestled the game in India’s favour. Then with a six off the last ball of the 49th over, he not only finished the game in style but also ensured it does not get into the last over.
When South Africa came to India in September last year, Iyer has been the one who has been trusted at the No.4 spot in T20Is. He has played 11 innings at that number and has two fifties and remained unbeaten on four occasions. By the looks of it, it seems he will be there at that very position come World T20 in Australia later this year.