Even the few cricket fans who still doubted whether Shreyas Iyar had slotted in permanently into the No 4 slot in limited-overs cricket must have been convinced of his prodigious talent and proven skill to come good and fix a vexed problem that has troubled Indian cricket for some time after his man of the match performance against New Zealand at Auckland on Friday.
Iyer came in exactly at the halfway mark following the dismissal of KL Rahul. He had not even settled down when Virat Kohli was out seven balls later. The dismissal of the two key wickets galvanized the Kiwis and pressure was back on the Indians. It was a tricky chase for 83 runs were still required in 8.5 overs with two new batsmen at the crease. The Indian team has for long been over-dependent on the top order and there were serious doubts whether the largely untested middle and late order would be up to the task.
And yet Iyer batted so superbly that the match was won with an over to spare. A tricky target became a breeze as he simply tore into the bowling with a series of breathtaking shots. Whether it was the pace of Tim Southee and Hamish Bennett or the spin of Mitchell Santner and Ish Sodhi Iyer treated them with disdain almost casually hitting five fours and three sixes as he rushed India to the victory target. His 58 off just 29 balls was just the kind of knock the team needed and there is little doubt that Iyer is here to stay.
The batting certainly made up for the bowling though one does not want to be over critical with the short boundaries making it tough going for the bowlers as New Zealand too discovered. One can only hope that Jasprit Bumrah will be fully fit for Sunday after the minor scare of having to receive medical attention in his final over. About the only change, one would like to see is Navdeep Saini taking the place of Shardul Thakur.
As to the victory it certainly was a meritorious one. It isn’t easy to travel halfway across the world and play a T-20 international against New Zealand within a couple of days of arrival and less than a week after playing a tough ODI against Australia at home. Kohli’s tongue in cheek remark that ``it is definitely getting closer and closer to landing at the stadium straight’’ has rightly attracted a lot of attention even if the skipper admits ``that’s how international cricket is these days.’’ Yes, the international schedule is tight but the really tough teams take it in their stride and that is what India did on Friday
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