Shreyas Iyer reveals an image of boyish charm. Be it on the ground or in the nets or with his teammates in the dressing room, Iyer leaves his stamp as the life of a party, a style icon, and the perfect representation of the IPL generation of cricketers. But nothing perhaps aptly describes than what Simon Doull once said of him during IPL: “one hell of a cricketer”.
Iyer, by every means, is one of the finest cricketers going around and that’s still selling him short. His uncanny ability to pace his innings has been well documented in the last few years in white-ball cricket but his strong appetite for runs and playing long innings of incredible substance in the red-ball format was traded for recency bias. He was pigeonholed as a white-ball specialist, as Dominic Cork realized through his unbeaten 75-run innings in which Shreyas didn’t even give an impression that it was his first professional red-ball game in almost three years.
“Shreyas never misses a Ranji Trophy game but due to Covid and his India team commitments, he had to stay away from the 2020 season but he always kept his preparation level to match the demands of Tests. He is passionate about that and is never satisfied with any success. His hunger to score runs in every format of the game makes him such a special player,” former Indian batter Pravin Amre, who has coached Iyer for close to 17 years now, told Cricket.com.
“He is a new generation boy. He has an incredible ability but also self-belief that shines through his performances. He has a unique style of dominating the bowlers which were evident throughout his red-ball career. He has scored against every kind of bowler and everywhere. His double century against Australia in 2017 is a testimony to his batting ability. Coming to the Test set-up with a 52 average, he has that innate confidence to take on anyone in Test cricket.”
Despite him being a victim of perception and selector’s short-sightedness in the first phase of his career, Shreyas Iyer has emerged as one of the flag bearers of a new set of confident Indian cricketers, rising through the ranks with sheer disdain for desi foods and an affinity to jump and fly in the gym. Iyer, for what was it worth, was not only knocking on the door of the selection committee but also brought the house down with consistent performances at the A-level and for Mumbai in the Ranji Trophy. He was screaming for a call-up, only to be delayed and pulled back for bigger forces. However, the damning indictment of the projected reality was pretty hard to miss.
He scored 809 runs at 50.56 in his opening season - a year where Mumbai had found themselves at a precarious position having lost to Jammu and Kashmir - and in the following year, which was his first full season for Mumbai, the Chembur boy amassed 1,321 runs, which was the most in a single Ranji Trophy season after VVS Laxman’s 1,415 for Hyderabad in 1999-2000. That alone should have been enough for Shreyas to get a call-up in the Indian side, which the Indian batter believed should have been the case. But as they say, hard work never goes unrewarded and when it did, he grabbed them with both hands.
“His second season in which he scored 1300 runs, which is a record for a Mumbai batter, allowed him to drive faster towards his ambition. Everybody expected that would be rewarded with a Test cap. Eventually, he came into the Test team but couldn’t find a place in the Playing XI. Now he is back in the team after four years and he is more mature than ever - which you can see from his innings today,” Amre added in the conversation.
The coach is understandably proud of his ward’s achievements and the way he managed to break the shackle, and eventually helping India to a much better situation in the final session of the Test. “Very proud moment for me as a coach,” Amre, who has mentored numerous young cricketers to play for India, said. “For any cricketer getting a Test cap is a special moment and Shreyas has worked really hard for where he is right now. He is batting so beautifully and his contribution really helped India to a good position. He started at our Shivaji Park Gymkhana Academy as a 12-year old kid and his graduation has really been a story.
“From playing Mumbai U-15 to India U-19 to India A, IPL, and now Test cricket for India, I am really proud of his progress.”
And why wouldn’t he be? Another fantastic day in the glorious tale of Pravin Amre.