Shreyas Iyer shows why India must keep faith this time after discarding him unfairly

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Shreyas Iyer scored a vital 71 for India in the second ODI.

India’s win over the West Indies in the second ODI on Sunday saw skipper Virat Kohli register his 42nd ton in the format. but it was young Shreyas Iyer who took all the plaudits following the side’s 59-run victory.

The 24-year-old displayed impressive maturity and some excellent strokeplay in his 71-run knock at the crease after walking out to bat at No5 for India. It was Iyer’s third ODI half-century in six innings and was another timely reminder of the right-hander’s batting prowess.

More than the impressive numbers behind his innings at Port of Spain, it was the manner in which Iyer constructed it that proved once again why he can be the solution to India’s longstanding middle-order woes.

While Rishabh Pant once again failed to seize his chance in the limited-overs format with a rash dismissal in the second ODI, Iyer showed the value of an excellent temperament with his stay at the crease.

The Delhi Capitals skipper walked into bat after Pant had thrown his wicket away in poor fashion and quickly assessed the conditions to perfection before registering his third ODI half-century.

The confidence and authority exuded by him during his 125-run stand with skipper Virat Kohli was what stood out the most about Iyer’s approach during his 68-ball stay at the crease.

While India have been crying for some stability in their middle-order for a long period now, Iyer’s exclusion from the ODI squad in the lead up to the 2019 World Cup was baffling given the fact he had performed decently in his limited chances previously.

An average of 42 and a strike-rate of more than 96 in six ODI appearances are good numbers for any middle-order batsman around the world. Yet, Iyer was quickly discarded by the team management for the likes of Ambati Rayudu and subsequently Vijay Shankar after the tour of South Africa at the start of 2018.

India’s struggles in the middle-order, and particularly at No4, have shown no signs of ending ever since and that soft underbelly was exposed cruelly in the World Cup semi-final loss to New Zealand.

Iyer has for long been a consistent performer at the domestic level with averages of 52.18 and 43.15 in first-class and List A cricket respectively while he has put together a string of impressive displays for India A as well.

Despite not having the extravagant shots in his locker, Iyer still manages to strike at nearly run-a-ball and that quality is akin to gold dust for a middle-order batsman in ODI cricket.

“Brilliant,” Virat Kohli replied when asked to give his verdict on Iyer’s display on Sunday.

“Stepping in, not having played many games in the past, but I think he’s a very confident guy, he’s got the right attitude, and his body language was brilliant.

“Really good start for him, hopefully he gets another one.”

It is now time for Kohli and the Indian team management to learn from their past mistakes and give Iyer a longer rope to establish his claim in the middle-order. More inconsistent performers than Iyer have been given an extended run in the squad in the past to no success with the likes of Manish Pandey and KL Rahul being some of the biggest culprits.

Yet, Iyer has been overlooked time and time again and was the only member of the India squad who did not get a single game in the preceding T20 series against West Indies.

“I want to stay in the team for a while, the consistency is always important, I want to play well and contribute to the team,” the right-hander stated after his second ODI display.

The youngster will certainly feature in the final match of the ODI series that takes place on Wednesday but it is what India’s selectors and team management do with him after the tour that will be of utmost importance.

The next four-year cycle for the 2023 World Cup has begun and India must now give Iyer his due.

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