If there was one instance from the Second and final Test between India and Sri Lanka that could be dubbed a bit of a surprise, then it would be the manner in which Shreyas Iyer raised his bat in the first inning to celebrate his half-century. What Shreyas Iyer did in the first inning was truly incredible. That’s both with the bat and the manner in which he celebrated his fifty.
The arms were stretched out, the man who was the highlight of the moment looked up to the heavens, and with both hands aloft, it seemed as though Iyer had brought up a hundred when this was a fifty. Whilst in the end he fell short of scoring another ton, desperately short by just eight runs, there was more to Shreyas Iyer’s 92 than what one would note. Out there in Bangalore, there was a hint of contentment in the air, but none of it was for Sri Lanka. Clearly, the team that was bamboozled and perhaps rightly so for it would’ve wondered just how did India’s up-and-coming man with the midhas touch race away to a fifty when the top order was found wanting. Make no mistake, for this was a rank turner. The ball skidded, and often, it laid low. At times, there was enough carry for the keeper, on other occasions; there was none of it.
There were concerned looks from the slip cauldron. But for the lion’s share of the time Iyer spent navigating his way through what was a challenging display by the Lankan spinners. The right-hander flummoxed Dickwella and his captain, Dimuth Karunaratne. The flowing drives, the rasp cuts and the purposeful footwork- all of it summarized that neither the pitch nor the opposition mattered to Shreyas Iyer. Pink ball, blazing night lights, a packed crowd, India under pressure were just existential players in the contest; what wasn’t, however, was Shreyas Iyer and his intent.
And it’s intent that has defined the dogged Mumbai batter ever since he stepped out on the Test turf, thumping 170 odd runs in his maiden appearance for India in prestigious white clothing. The way New Zealand were stunned, especially with that 105, circa November 2021, you could say Sri Lankans were baffled with a brave 92. But there was great purpose in this half-century, truth be told. Playing at home, India were under pressure. Jayawickrama and Embuldeniya, six wickets among them in India’s first inning, were all over the hosts.
Someone had to step in. Kohli and Rohit could barely stamp an impression upon the game. The top three, if you cared to note, managed only 50 among them. And when Shreyas Iyer strolled down the memorable venue in India’s garden city, things changed soon after. It was clear that there had only be one flower that would bloom. Perhaps the reason why Shreyas Iyer’s 92 would be long recalled as being an effort nothing shy of a coveted century was the brilliance in the way he counterattacked.
Turning the heat over to the oppressor. It was an effort that was duly noted by none other than the best batsman to have ever embraced the modern-day game- Sachin Tendulkar. “Great counterattacking batting from Shreyas Iyer on a track that was helping the spinners. His footwork was very good, and because of that, he made batting look easy,” exclaimed the little master on a batsman who mastered the Sri Lankan spin on a hard-as-nails wicket to bat on. Moreover, you know you’ve done something outlandish-without misusing the phrase- when you nearly hit a hundred when on the same track Rohit and Virat manage 38 between them.
Not that Iyer’s Sri Lankan assault halted with that gritty 92, an inning where he was simply unafraid to dance down the wicket and even use the depth of the crease to explore gaps on either side. That he emerged as the top-scorer in the second innings too made his presence in the Indian side akin to a tiger tamer in the wild. In the second innings, while it was all a Pant-show, the left-hander destroying the spinners and fast bowlers alike, Iyer’s continuous but subdued presence at the other end bore rich fruits for India. The 67 off 87 once again headlining the scoresheet for an India where Kohli’s disappointing returns with the bat evoked social media brouhaha.
All said and done, what must be duly noted is that Iyer’s peaking just at the right time. In a few weeks from now, his IPL franchise KKR will need a massively in-form batsman to headline a new season, one that seems even more interesting with the addition of two new IPL teams. And while much of the buzz usually sits with the likes of King Kohli, big-hitting Maxwell, the wizardly MS Dhoni and the big-hitting Pooran, can Iyer continue his stellar show?