The current Indian team is stacked with match-winners, to an extent that even those warming the bench can very easily make the first preferred Playing XI of any top team in the world.
This shows the tremendous depth Indian cricket has been able to achieve, more so in batting. Say what you may about the weakness against left-arm quicks and the inability of batters to make up for a top-order collapse, the shortcomings in this Indian team is few and far.
Having said that, not every player is currently going through the greatest of runs. Virat Kohli is repeatedly falling to the outside off trap, a bigger red flag is hovering over Shreyas Iyer, who appears a walking wicket against short-pitched bowling. A lot has been written and said about Iyer’s vulnerability against the short ball ever since the IPL 2022 where he was captaining Kolkata Knight Riders, but former India fielding coach R Sridhar has revealed that this issue dates back to Iyer’s India debut back in 2018.
“It is a very perceived weakness. We all are seeing it at the highest level, and not just now. I remember an incident way back in Port Elizabeth in 2018. Shreyas Iyer had made his debut in India against Sri Lanka and quickly after that we went to South Africa for a multi-format tour. Shreyas got an opportunity to play in the 4th ODI if I am not mistaken. He went up to bat against Morne Morkel and straightaway he (Morkel) tested him out with a short ball and he fended it to third man,” Sridhar told Cricket.com.
“Ravi Shastri was sitting besides me. and he said ‘Sree, ye bachhe pe bahut kaam karna padega’. Shastri saw just one ball. I am sure Shreyas is working very hard with the batting coach. He has got the best coaches around probably to help him out – Rahul Dravid, Vikram Rathour. He maybe having his personal coaches in Mumbai as well, with whom he would be having a chat.”
Iyer did get to play his first match outside India in the 4th ODI against South Africa in 2018 but it was in Johannesburg. The 5th ODI was in Port Elizabeth and on both ocassions, he came up against Morne Morkel but was dismissed by Lungi Ngidi.
Iyer’s most recent, and a rather embarrassing dismissal came against England in the rescheduled fifth Test in Birmingham. Iyer scored 15 in the first Test but it was his shaky score of 19 in the second that raised huge concerns. For 26 balls, Iyer looked extremely uncomfortable, and once head coach Brendon McCullum sent the signal from the change room, the England bowlers were relentless in peppering Iyer with the short ball. After fending, jumping and hopping, Iyer miscued a pull to midwicket, and that was that. This technical issue promises to linger on for Iyer’s coaches but Sridhar is confident the batter will soon be able to put it behind him.
“I think it is more of a mental thing more than anything else. Iyer is super fit. He has got good technique and the day he cracks that code of short-pitch bowling; the bowlers will have no way to bowl to him because he can hit through the line and all that stuff. It is only a matter of time before he comes out of that but for many players, their strengths are their weaknesses,” he said.