Shreyas Iyer is about to make his Test debut on Thursday against World Test champions New Zealand, 33 months since he last played a frst-class game in February 2019. It’s been quite a break for Iyer, leapfrogging Test specialist Hanuma Vihari who has been subjected to an India ‘A’ tour by the selectors.
In the past two years, Iyer has established himself as a steady middle-order bat in white-ball cricket. But that doesn’t take away from an astonishing first-class record he has managed in the five seasons till 2019.
Iyer has scored 4592 first-class runs at an average of 52.18 while maintaining a strike rate 81.54. In short, he is a bully in domestic cricket which is one of the first prerequisites of being a successful international batter. He almost made his debut against Australia in Dharamsala in March 2017 when regular skipper Virat Kohli had to sit out of the Test due to a shoulder injury.
Stand-in captain Ajinkya Rahane decided to go in with an extra bowler instead. Four and a half years on, it’s Rahane who said:
“Yes, Shreyas is going to make his debut with KL Rahul suffering an injury.”
This opportunity has come as Kohli, Rohit Sharma and Pant are resting. Iyer’s numbers and performances suggest that a Test debut was only a matter of time. But it’s taken a lot more to win the trust of present head coach Rahul Dravid.
It may be recalled that when Dravid had assumed charge as Delhi Daredevils’ (now Capitals) mentor in 2016, Iyer had lost his place in the XI by the end of the season. Dravid was only getting into the coaching mode with India ‘A’ and U-19 sides. He had seen a fair bit of Iyer at India ‘A’ level.
All set to don the whites 🇮🇳 👌🏻Go well, @ShreyasIyer15! 👍🏻#TeamIndia #INDvNZ @Paytm https://t.co/CqZ0tMWpdI— BCCI (@BCCI) 1637765300000
Iyer managed to stay in the loop but was given the back seat when it came to first-class cricket for India ‘A’. The exaggerated shuffle and lose hands probably didn’t help. All this despite scoring runs for fun in domestic cricket.
But within a year, he started to win back Dravid’s confidence with each ‘A’ series. He was looking more composed at the crease and getting the job done for his team. His selection in the squad is a clear indication he is in Dravid’s plans of preparing a backup for the ageing middle-order.
The ability to score runs quickly and counterattack, as his most first-class innings have shown, have helped him pip the more sedate Vihari. On raging turners, where any ball could have your name on it, the ability to open up a game is considered priceless. Iyer scores on that front.
Iyer, Suryakumar and Gill form the core of the plan to take India’s batting forward. For Iyer, it’s just an opportunity to win the trust of Dravid for a long period.