For a major chunk of last year, India were struggling to find the perfect man for their No.4 position in ODIs. Ambati Rayudu, Vijay Shankar, Rishabh Pant were all tried but the solution wasn’t to be found. But with the emergence of Shreyas Iyer, India finally seem to have solved the puzzle. Since exiting the World Cup last year, the team management has invested in Iyer and the batsman has repaid their faith with strong numbers. Also Read - IPL 2021: Shikhar Dhawan Impressed by Rishabh Pant's Calmness on Captaincy Debut Against CSK, Lauds Delhi Capitals Wicketkeeper Presence of Mind
In nine ODI innings batting at No.4, Iyer has tallied 398 runs at an average of 56.85. This includes his impressive outing recently against New Zealand in the three ODIs, where he scored two half-centuries and a hundred. Although Iyer revels playing for India at that slot, the batsman admits the hoopla surrounding the “No.4” position does get to him at times. Also Read - IPL 2021: Ahead of CSK Clash, Steve Smith And Marcus Stoinis Join Delhi Capitals Training Camp
“I do feel comfortable now batting at No. 4. I’ve done that for a while now and it’s beginning to feel like it’s the space where I belong — so why not? But let me reiterate this. If you’re going to play at the highest level, it’s about what the team wants and the concerns that need to be addressed at that given moment in time,” Iyer told Times of India. Also Read - Lion-Hearted Determination: Shreyas Iyer Undergoes Successful Shoulder Injury
“It’s not like I’m the only batsman who can bat at No.4. Flexibility, versatility, these are actual terms that one needs to apply right? Not just fancy words to read about and forget. Growing up as a cricketer, I’ve batted in almost every position between the top and the middle-order. Tomorrow, if I’m asked to bat at No. 5, that’s what you’ll find me doing. If I’m asked to walk out there and open, that’ll be my responsibility. The middle-order should be the talking point. Not just No. 4.”
While his ODI form has no doubt witnessed a spike since his return to the Indian team post last year’s 50-over World Cup, Iyer remains an equally key ingredient in the team’s in T20I setup. With the T20 World Cup lined up later this year, Iyer is a nice fit even in the shorter format of the game.
“In T20, sometimes I feel you’ve got more time than you think. It’s a very short format and everything changes so quickly but if you believe that you have it in you to change the momentum of the game, dictate the pace of the game, you can give yourself as much time as possible. If you can keep changing gears through the innings, remain in control, knowing when to time, when to slog, you retain a sense of control. Anything is possible as long as there’s enough focus and you’re finding the middle of the bat,” Iyer said.
Iyer demonstrates the Mumbai school of batting, yet the 25-year-old says he won’t shy away from going after the bowling if the situation requires. That quality came to the fore during the opening T20Is against New Zealand where his unbeaten 58 guided India home in a tense chase, followed by a knock of 44 in the next.
“Let’s keep it simple: T20 is all about how you adapt to that given moment. See the scoreboard and just go with the flow. For example, that knock against New Zealand in Auckland. Virat had just lost his wicket to a spectacular catch and I was walking out next,” he said.
“I remember, walking out, all that I was thinking was, ‘oh, how am I going to finish this game now?’ … ‘how should I go about it?’ Virat is seen as someone used to finishing off games. That’s when I suddenly did this thing that I call ‘opposite thinking’. It was a great opportunity for me to finish off that game. That’s it — putting yourself in the right frame of mind.”
While Iyer finally seems to be cracking India’s limited-overs code, he is not diverting away from working towards his dream of playing Test cricket for India somewhere down the road.
“I’ve grown up playing red-ball cricket. Once that is imbibed in you as a cricketer, it is never going to go away. No cricketer, who has spent a good amount of time playing red-ball cricket will ever quit aspiring to play Test cricket. It’s a different feeling,” he said.
“It may sound like a cliché, but playing Test cricket is a dream and I hope it comes true soon. Don’t think it’s just me who thinks that way. Anybody who aspires to play the game at the highest level will always aspire to play Test cricket. Then it’s all about how capable you are.”