Shreyas Iyer in 2022 has scored 422 runs in Tests at an average of 60.28. Iyer carries highest average (67.83) against spinners among India batters in Tests since 2021.
Mumbai has been a known as a manufacturing plant for batters who more often than not go on to bring laurels for India. The list keeps on increasing year after year, and for the past two years or so, one batter who has outperformed not just the blokes of Mumbai but international stars as well in India’s squad has been Shreyas Iyer. The prolific Mumbai-born batter has been nothing short of magical in the past two years for India in all formats.
28-year-old Shreyas Santosh Iyer, who was being looked at as the next potential skipper during 2019-20 but slipped out of contention owing to injuries thereafter. Ever since his comeback, Iyer has been probably the best red-ball batter for India on subcontinental pitches, which turn and bounce like a superball. Shreyas, who was previously regarded as a white-ball player, wowed everyone with his supremacy and dominance in red-ball cricket. The right-hand batter made his India debut in 2017 in the ODI setup, and it took five long years for Shreyas to power his way from the colourful blue India jersey to India whites (Test matches). Shreyas has played seven Tests, totalling 12 innings, since 2021, and boy! He has donned the white jersey with utmost pride, scoring 624 runs at an unbelievable average of 56.72. In these 12 innings, Shreyas has scored one century and five fifties, with three of them being 80+ scores (92, 86 and 87). Read More: BAN v IND, 2nd Test: Ashwin-Shreyas 71* stand helps India snatch victory from jaws of defeat
Shreyas and runs against spinners: A better love story than Twilight?
India’s batters have been historically known as the best players when the ball is turning like an F1 race car drifting on a sharp turn. But in the recent ten years, the batting average of the top 5 batters has dropped drastically against spinners, and they have been found wanting for answers against spin bowlers. Gone are the days when India’s batters faced spinners blindfolded on any track. Among current India squad cricketers with a cut-off of 10 innings and in the period post January 1, 2021, only Shreyas Iyer and Rishabh Pant have an average of more than 60 against spinners; the Mumbai batter averages a whopping 67.83 against bowlers of that variety. Its true that Ravindra Jadeja has an average of 98.50, but if one digs deep then one finds that his 197 runs have come in 11 innings and his high average is only attributed to his 9 undefeated innings in this time span.
India's struggle to find a calm and composed batter in the middle is analogous to the Fab Four of India’s great batters between 2000 and 2011. And Shreyas Iyer has been the batter in the line-up who can dominate any spinner with the flick of his wrist.
Of course, thanks to the batter’s great use of the wrist and soft hands against the spinners, the most impressive Shreyas' innings in Test cricket came in the first quarter of 2022, when he belted one of the best spin bowling attacks, that of Sri Lanka, in both innings on a rank turner at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru.
India were 86-4 when Iyer went into bat on the first day’s play. From there on, Iyer accumulated 92 runs, scoring 36.50 pc of the team's total runs (252) in that innings. What impressed one and all was the manner in which Iyer tackled the spinners. While the other batters had thrown in the towel with no one crossing even 40, Iyer nonchalantly attacked the spinners, putting his dancing shoes on every time Sri Lanka’s spinners tried to attack him with fielders around the bat. When the bowlers are weaving their web of spin, India’s very own “Spiderman” Iyer comes down the track and hammers the web of spin all over the park.
Iyer’s ability to use his feet made the Lankan spinners drop short, and the rock-solid Iyer used his height to great effect, going back deep in his crease and clobbering the short deliveries over mid-wicket for boundaries. Even in the second innings, Iyer out-batted the rest of the Indian batters, scoring 22.11 pc (67) of the team's total runs (303), assisting India in posting a winning total of 303 and setting Sri Lanka a steep target of 447 to chase on a deadly spinning track. This was more of a counter-attacking innings where Sri Lanka’s left-arm spinners were bowling with a negative line from over the wicket, targeting the area far outside leg stump. Iyer’s quick use of the feet and charismatic wrist-work against the spinners on a pitch that generated turn and bounce was a spectacle for the observers of the game. Iyer top-scored for India in both innings of the Test, where spinners took 26 (66.66 pc) of the total 39 wickets, which proves the stature and brilliance of Shreyas Iyer against spinners.
Shreyas brings out his mature side in Test series against Bangladesh
In the recently concluded two-match Test series against Bangladesh in Bangladesh, Shreyas Iyer scored 202 runs in three innings, and while eyebrows were raised over the Player of the Series award being given to Cheteshwar Pujara over Shreyas, the tall, right-hand batter won the hearts of every Indian fan more with the composure of his batting under pressure than anything else.
Iyer scored a crucial 29 runs remaining not out when India were in trouble chasing a paltry target of 145 in the second Test. Shreyas' sensible and calm batting in the match-winning record partnership of 71* for the eighth wicket with Ravichandran Ashwin took India home in the tense second Test in Mirpur. India were staring at a certain defeat at 74-7 while chasing 145. Iyer’s presence in the middle sent a sense of calm among the dressing room, and KL Rahul echoed the same during the post-match conference.
Iyer's ability to drop the wrist on turning tracks with high bounce reminds us all of our hero from the 1960s, ML Jaisimha.
Read More: Mitchell Starc & the zest for Test cricket
Crunching the numbers of top India batters against spinners in recent times
If we look at the numbers, India's top five Test batters in order of runs scored from January 1, 2021 to December 31, 2022 have been Rishabh Pant (1,424), Cheteshwar Pujara (1,106), Rohit Sharma (996), Virat Kohli (801) and Shubman Gill (648).
Shreyas Iyer, who ranks 7th, has played the least number of innings (12) among all the top 10 batters and has the best average (56.73), with the next-best being Rishabh Pant (47.47).
Decoding India's performance against spin bowlers with the red ball, Iyer has only been dismissed six times while scoring 407 runs in just ten innings against spin bowlers, with the best average (67.83) against spin bowlers.
The second-best again is Rishabh, who has been known to take the spinners to the cleaners with all his might, scoring 732 runs in 22 innings at an average of 61. Notably, Iyer has the best average against spinners. He also dominates the spinners with a healthy strike rate of 64.6 in Test cricket, only second to Rishabh Pant's (97.21).
How India’s current batters fare against spin since beginning of 2021
What awaits Iyer with WTC 2021-23 & CWC 2023 in his peripheral vision?
The stylish Mumbai batter has been in brilliant form in ODI cricket in 2022, with successful outings against the West Indies, New Zealand and the recent tour of Bangladesh. Against the West Indies, Iyer scored three fifties in four innings (1 at home, 2 away) and helped India sail over the victory line.
Iyer then stunned everyone with his consistent performance against South Africa at home, where he scored one century and one fifty in the three-match series (50, 113*, and 28*). In fact, Iyer was dismissed only once in that series. He continued his purple patch against the Kiwis too, scoring 80 in the first and 49 in the third ODI. Iyer added 109 more runs in the three-match series in Bangladesh, including 82 in the second ODI.
The most important part of all the crucial Shreyas Iyer innings in ODIs has been the time when he has come into bat. India are over and out, with the big guns back in the pavilion inside 20 overs. Iyer has since come in and played the modern-day sheet anchor role, not only playing full innings but also tonking the bowlers as needed to increase the scoring rate. This year Shreyas Iyer has scored 724 runs in 15 innings, belting bowlers across the park with an average of 55.69 and a healthy strike rate of 91.53.
Most of his big scores have come at either numbers 3 or 4, and with Virat Kohli being the undisputed first-choice number 3, Iyer has a great opportunity to grab the number 4 spot in ODIs. The stakes are high for the number four position since India have struggled to find the perfect batter for that position in the recent past, with the likes of KL Rahul, Ambati Rayudu and Rishabh Pant, among others, all failing to make it their own.
Iyer has been one of the most consistent batters in the Indian team in ODIs over the last 12 months, outscoring all other Indian batters with 724 runs, consisting of six fifty-plus scores and one hundred, with the next best being Shikhar Dhawan, with 688 runs in 7 more innings than Iyer. On the back of this purple year, the Mumbai southpaw also jumped from the 34th place to the 15th place ICC ODI rankings for batters.
It is no secret that Shreyas Iyer struggles against the short ball. His vulnerability against the short ball is usually brought to the fore in the longest format of the game, especially in pace-friendly conditions. Though Iyer might already know that his shortcoming when the ball is short requires improvement and might already be working on it with the batting coach, but with India hosting the ODI World Cup 2023, the threat of short-pitched bowling is snuffed out thanks to the slower and lower wickets in the sub-continent.