Cricket News By TODAYLIVESCORE.INFO - Shreyas Iyer fits right in. Shreyas Iyer remained unbeaten on 75 at stumps on day 1.
Shreyas Iyer remained unbeaten on 75 at stumps on day 1.
Eight balls into his incidental Test debut, Shreyas Iyer nearly threw it away for nothing. He'd walked out to bat following Cheteshwar Pujara's exit at a time when New Zealand were gnawing for an early advantage in Kanpur. The nervousness of finally making it out in India whites was palpable and he gave in to the urge to quickly get off the mark. Luckily for him, Kane Williamson couldn't get to the wild miscue on time.
The debut was incidental because until the previous evening it wasn't even going to happen. India had planned on using Shubman Gill in the middle order while Shreyas remained on the bench, like the last time he made it to the squad as a cover for Virat Kohli in the Dharamsala Test of 2017 against Australia. But KL Rahul's muscle strain threw India's plans for the first Test in disarray, resulting in Shreyas getting a Test cap to embrace on a hazy Thursday morning at Green Park.
An average of 52.18 to go with a strike-rate of 81.54 are unarguably immaculate first-class numbers, but the last of his 4592 runs came in February 2019. The absence of recent red-ball experience was another stick that the critics beat this selection with – but to fully understand Shreyas's gumption for the format, you'd have to look back to a cold February morning of 2015. It was Shreyas's debut Ranji season when the then Mumbai head coach Praveen Amre had a dilemma to solve. Mumbai had won just one of their three opening fixtures – incidentally in Kanpur with Shreyas scoring a 78-ball 75 at No. 7 – and needed a change.
“As a coach I was under pressure. I wanted to change the batting order because (Aditya) Tare was not in form at that moment and a lot of pressure was on the team. One senior was Siddhesh Lad, who was batting at #6 and he was batting fine, so when I asked him if he'll go up at 3, he said ‘no I am happy there'. But when I asked Shreyas, he said ‘yes sir I will go in at No.3' and the rest is history,” Amre tells Cricbuzz.
A 175-ball 153 against Bengal gave Amre a new No. 3 batsman, and Shreyas a springboard for big runs. He finished the season with 809 to his tally, and then went a step further to satiate a demanding coach. “I told him, in the first year scoring 700-plus is easy, what you do next year is more important,” Amre recalled. Shreyas responded with 1,321 runs in the 2015-16 Ranji season – the highest single-season tally by a Mumbai batsman in their rich history. But Shreyas's knock against Bengal on a seaming wicket at the Eden Gardens a year before had already convinced Amre that a long and successful India career in Tests was to be forged very soon.
Such has been the design of Shreyas's career and India's Test make-up that the two paths didn't entirely converge until 2021. He's made giant strides in coloured kits, but Test cricket – a format that Shreyas has been desperate for a crack at, as per Amre, had remained out of reach until now. Amre revealed he kept Shreyas on course, even through some banterous encouragement: “You've got everything now – you've got a good car, a good house, but do you have a Test cap?,” he'd ask the Mumbai batsman.
The chance to respond to that in the affirmative came on Thursday, and Shreyas made sure the 1014 days of gap between his last red-ball outing and the Test debut didn't make a difference.
Questions of temperament and patience were also responded to well. Barring that one moment of weakness to get his first Test run, there was a sense of composure to Shreyas's innings even as Kyle Jamieson looked to drag early honours of the tour towards New Zealand's corner. India had been rocked in the second session and went to tea at a precarious 154/4. For Amre, Shreyas is a case study of being the most un-Mumbai-like batsman, perennially throwing caution to the winds. Yet on Thursday, those primal instincts stayed beneath the surface when the situation demanded better as he headed into the break at a modest 17 off 49.
The remaining 58 of his total came off just 82 balls in the final session as he took on the spinners, particularly going after New Zealand's fifth bowler Rachin Ravindra. Shreyas's level of control got to such an extent that Ajaz tried to lure him into a mistake with negative lines outside the leg stump from over the wicket. Shreyas nearly bit the bullet and hit one just short of the mid-on fielder, but also managed to connect one perfectly to send it sailing over the vacant midwicket area.
New Zealand looked for respite when the new ball was available but bad light meant they could only bowl 4 overs with it, including one from offspinner Will Somerville who was also dispatched over midwicket. It summed up a day that was once within New Zealand's grasp but ended well away, as Shreyas – and Ravindra Jadeja – took the hosts to 258 for 4.
“For me, he'd tick all the boxes if he bats for two sessions,” Amre reckoned. Shreyas has already been out there plotting India's recovery for 46.2 overs and looks set for a lot more on Day 2.