CWC 2023: Shreyas Iyer’s dismal performances raise questions on his inclusion in playing XI?
It’s very rare that questions are raised on team selection when a side dominates a tournament like India have in Cricket World Cup 2023. Six consecutive victories in the tournament have taken them to the top position, and they are well on track to qualify for the knock-out encounters.
Almost every player has performed and contributed to the team’s win, barring Shreyas Iyer - who has not been able to find his rhythm so far in this tournament. And unsurprisingly, it’s his old foe - the short ball - that gave him trouble on most of the occasions.
Shreyas Iyer with 134 runs fights to justify his World Cup selection
Most of the batters in the Indian team for the World Cup seem to be in fine touch. Rohit Sharma has been the fourth-highest run getter of the competition so far, with 398 runs in six innings at an average of 66.33. Virat Kohli has also managed 354 runs in six innings at an average of 88.50.
However, Iyer has been inconsistent till now in the tournament. He has managed just 134 runs in six innings, at an average of 33.50 and strike rate of 84.81, including his lone fifty against Pakistan.
For someone who isn’t a certainty yet in the ODI side, Iyer’s numbers are excellent, with 1,935 runs in 48 innings, at an average of 45 and strike rate of 96.85, along with three hundreds and 15 fifties.
It should also be noted that coming back from an injury, Iyer didn’t have a great outing in Asia Cup 2023 too, managing just 14 runs in two innings.
With pressure mounting going into the home series against Australia just before the announcement of the World Cup 2023 squad, Iyer made a strong case for himself by hitting 156 runs in three innings at an average of 52 and strike rate of 110.64.
But he hasn’t justified his place in the World Cup squad yet. For some odd reason, he tries to play too many shots at the start of his innings, even though the 50-over format allows batters to take a little bit of time to settle and understand the condition. It surely isn’t a bad option to respect the good deliveries and wait for the ones on which shots can be played.
Short ball creating problems for Iyer
It’s almost as if bowling the short ball against Iyer has been accepted as the go-to weaponry for every team which is going to play against India.
On Sunday against England, it was on display from Chris Woakes, who isn’t even known for bowling with deadly pace and generating that extra bounce. The ball didn’t climb that high, but Iyer was not in great position and quite expectedly he miscued the pull.
For a long time, his weakness against the short-ball has troubled him in all the three formats of the game. Brendon McCullum, from the balcony, gesturing to England’s bowlers to target Iyer’s throat during the Edgbaston Test in 2022 was as open as a signal as anyone can get. Only a few weeks prior, McCullum had worked with Iyer in the Kolkata Knight Riders’ dressing room, trying to solve the same issue.
Iyer has worked with a number of coaches to find a resolution, and Rahul Dravid seems to be the strongest and the most persistent with him. Iyer first worked with Dravid in 2015, the year he was picked up by Delhi Daredevils (now Delhi Capitals), before the partnership got extended to India A and several tours over the years.
“That (the short ball issue) is just what the commentators talk about. And off-the-field guys kept saying it was an issue; It had gone into my head at one point,” Iyer had said during the Bangladesh away series in December 2022. “But if you see, if I can leave or keep it down, I definitely don’t have a problem.”
If there is a delivery that can hurt one physically, and won’t get a batter out, it’s the short ball, if they keep on either ducking it or taking it on the body. But Iyer seems to be taking the short ball conundrum on his ego. He was pinned at one spot, and his front foot wasn’t moving at all. That means he was unable to transfer his body weight behind, making it tough to face the delivery.
“It does play in batsmen’s mind when people from the outside talk about the problem and it’s important as a player to turn a deaf ear to them,” Iyer later said during the same series. “At the end of the day, ignorance is bliss.”
With Hardik Pandya’s return, Iyer’s position comes under threat?
There is high expectations from Shreyas Iyer at number 4, and once the batting fails and India go on to lose a game, the question will straightaway come over Iyer’s inclusion in the playing XI.
At the moment, the hosts are going with the five bowling options because of Hardik Pandya’s injury. All the three pacers- Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammad Shami and Mohammad Siraj have done a fantastic job with the ball. But the moment Pandya returns to the team, Iyer might get dropped as the team could likely want to continue with three fast bowlers. In such a situation, it is quite likely that KL Rahul will bat at number four, in the spot reserved till now for Iyer.
From here on, the games for India will only get tougher going into the knock-out stage, and Iyer needs to get back into form as soon as possible.
India will next play against Sri Lanka on November 2 at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai.