Shreyas Iyer’s knock can end India’s search for a regular No 4

Shreyas Iyer says he is not ‘a very gifted player’ when it comes to hitting the ball out of the park. But, when it is about playing the funny man in the Delhi Capitals set-up, the captain of the franchise can definitely count on his natural flair. During the lockdown, Iyer’s social media handle was filled with videos of him playing pranks on his sister, his mother and even showing off some cool dance moves. He could also be seen mimicking teammate Shimron Hetmyer on camera, while the latter was giving an interview, a few days ago.

It’s intriguing then, how Iyer keeps his funny bone aside and suddenly transforms into a serious soul—one who rarely smiles—while batting, even when he has hit six sixes and seven fours in a 38-ball 88*-run innings. The knock shifted the balance in DC’s favour against KKR on Saturday.

Maybe Iyer has the pressure of being the youngest captain in this IPL, of a team that has never reached the final in the past 12 editions. For the 25-year-old Iyer, however, his preparation makes up for everything. “I know the hard work and the smart work I have put in through my gym sessions. So I wouldn’t say I am a very gifted player,” Iyer said after DC’s 18-run win.

By the hard and smart work, Iyer means all the core, balancing exercises, the weight training that he had been doing during the lockdown to increase his strength. It was visible during his Saturday blitz. It’s not all raw muscle and power. Iyer has a balanced stance and likes to play straight. None of the sixes were the result of a wild heave, they weren’t off edges either.

But more than Iyer’s technique, it was his temperament that stood out. On a flat Sharjah wicket, it’s easy to get carried away. Rishabh Pant did and ended up holing one to long-on while trying a ‘helicopter shot.’

Iyer, on the other hand, took his time and ensured he stayed on. It wasn’t like that always. During Iyer’s U-19 days, he was aggressive and, at times, rash. As he grew up, he managed to polish off the edges. Perhaps it was this maturity and poise that led him to replace Gautam Gambhir as the Delhi captain in 2018. Since then, Iyer has had a strike-rate of 162 against pacers from over 16-20 in the IPL, while against spinners it climbs to 182. The numbers do point at someone who has the potential to become a great finisher.

This was not the first time Iyer gave proof of it. At the 2015 IPL, which was also his first, Iyer got 439 runs in 14 matches. Since becoming DC captain, Iyer has scored 411 and 463 respectively in 2018 and 2019. Clearly, captaincy is not a burden for him.

Those IPL numbers were always expected of Iyer after he did consistently well in the other domestic competitions. The highlight of course is the 1321 runs he got for Mumbai in the 2015-16 Ranji season, which was then the second highest ever in the tournament after VVS Laxman’s 1415 in 1999-00.

Iyer’s career has steadily progressed since then. He made his India debut in 2017 and has played 18 ODIs and 22 T20Is. But, it was in the last ODI series before the Covid lockdown in February against New Zealand where Iyer truly flourished. He top-scored with 217 runs in three matches at No.4. That position has seen many false dawns but if Iyer maintains consistency and keeps his cool like he has during at the IPL, he may help put an end to India’s search for a solid No 4 batsman.

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