Kolkata: It was on March 23 last year when Shreyas Iyer’s world came crashing down as the Indian batsman came down with a thud while fielding in an ODI against England in Pune. Almost a year down the line, the Mumbaikar has completed a rollercoaster ride in his career - though there is no doubt that he is riding the crest at the moment.
The ongoing visit of Sri Lanka, which first saw the Men in Blue complete a 3-0 whitewash in the T20 series and then poised to do an encore in the two-Test series, will certainly reinforce the 27-year-old’s reputation as the new rock of Indian middle order. Not only was he consistency personified with three half-centuries on the trot in the T20s and the feat of becoming the first Indian batsman to have scored fifties in both innings of a day-night Test match, it’s his assured technique and adaptability that confirms that his hard yards in first class cricket has certainly paid off.
Iyer’s sequence of scores against Sri Lanka is telltale: 57, 74 not out, 73 not out in the T20s which he finished with a staggering strike-rate of 174.56, followed by 27, 92 and 67 in Tests. The dream run, of course, started earlier with a match-winning 80 in the third ODI against the visiting West Indies in Ahmedabad which he followed up with a 16-ball 25 in the last game of the subsequent three-match T20I series - which saw him being named as the ICC Player of the Month for February on Monday.
No sooner the Test series gets over, Iyer will be entering the bio bubble of Kolkata Knight Riders, the two-time IPL champions as their captain for the 10-team league which gets under way on March 26. This is, incidentally, his second tenure as an IPL captain after having been at the helm of Delhi Capitals for more than two seasons - a testimony of his leadership qualities which saw the KKR management eyeing him for long once they let go of Eoin Morgan.
The scenario has undergone a dramatic transformation from the uncertainty that Shreyas was staring at after his critical shoulder surgery in early April last year. One still remembers him posting a photo of him from the hospital bed with him arm in the sling with him vowing to be back soon - even though he knew deep down that the comeback would not be easy.
Shreyas was out of action from the first half of IPL as his franchise named Rishabh Pant as the new captain. He slowly got into the groove and the hard work began when almost five months down the line, he landed up in Dubai with Pravin Amre, the batting coach of Delhi almost a month ahead of the second leg of IPL to whip himself back into shape.
He was back in the fray in the second leg of the IPL in the UAE in September-October, but eventually lost his captaincy to Pant - a decision which didn’t go down well with Shreyas. The batsman was also named as one of the stand-byes for the T20 World Cup but eventually was not a part of India’s campaign, a dismal once where they failed to make the semi-finals.
The wheels of fortune, however, started turning when last November, Shreyas eventually received his Test cap from from the legendary Sunil Gavaskar for the first Test against New Zealand at Green Park Stadium in Kanpur. The wait was worth the while - and it came a fortutious manner as a replacement for Virat Kohli who opted out and Shreyas responded brilliantly with a century (105) against a worthy New Zealand attack and followed it up with another half-century in the second innings.
A century on debut was still not enough for Shreyas to cement his place in the Test squad as Kohli came back in the second Test, while he had to bide his time in South Africa as the team management chose to keep their faith on the experienced duo of Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane in the middle order despite their loss of form. However, with India’s Test batting line-up wearing a different look now and the way Shreyas led the lower order resistance in the company of tailenders on a treacherous Chinnaswamy wicket in both innings - he is certainly here to stay.
50-plus scores in both innings of a day-night Test
87 & 116 - Darren Bravo vs Pak, Dubai 2016
130 & 63 - Steve Smith vs Pak, Brisbane 2016
143 & 50 - Marnus Labuschagne vs NZ, Perth 2019
103 & 51 - Labuschagne vs Eng, Adelaide 2021
92 & 67 - Shreyas Iyer vs SL, Bengaluru 2022