Shreyas Iyer got his first World Cup century on Sunday, off 84 balls, against the Netherlands at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru. This hundred, his fourth in the format, came on the back of his 82 against Sri Lanka and 77 versus South Africa.
Iyer reached the landmark with a single off a short ball, and his most productive shot of the evening was the pull shot. It may feel strange to mention Iyer, short-pitched, and pull in the same sentence in a piece extolling his innings. After all, Iyer’s problem with the short ball has been well documented. The issue, it seemed, was that he didn’t quite know how to leave the bouncer. He didn’t have a defensive option against it, so he either went for an unconvincing pull or hopped awkwardly to defend instead of just swaying out of the line.
However, the story has been different this World Cup. Trusted by captain Rohit Sharma and coach Rahul Dravid to deliver as India’s No. 4, Iyer has been the team’s designated middle-order aggressor whose job has been to take risks against specific bowlers.
“When you say it’s a problem for me, what do you mean?” Iyer had asked at the post-match press conference after the win against Sri Lanka that sealed India’s place in the semifinals. “Have you seen how many pull shots I’ve scored, especially those that have gone for four?”
Iyer, though, didn’t get off to the brightest of starts in this tournament, having been dismissed for a duck in the campaign opener against Australia in Chennai. He was, in fact, out to the short ball against New Zealand and England. But there has since been an uptick in form for the Mumbai right-hander, thanks in part to his “temperament,” as Dravid pointed out on the eve of the Netherlands game.
“Everyone will have areas that they need to work on and need to improve. There’s no complete batsman who can say that I know everything or that I’m very good at everything; you’re always going to have areas to improve. But at the end of the day, you have to be judged by the results you produce. And the runs you score and when you score them. And I think with Shreyas, [that’s] one of the things that does stand out,” Dravid had remarked.
From the time he came to bat, Iyer was given a fair share of back-of-a-length deliveries. But it was no problem for him on an easy-paced wicket.
The challenge for the opposition is that once Iyer is set, you have to wait for him to manufacture a dismissal. If not the short ball, the next best way to get Iyer out is when he steps out to a spinner and misses, or when he has scored more than a hundred and is looking to inflict more damage. Unfortunately for Netherlands, none of the above transpired.
The pacers resorted to the slower balls, which became predictable after a point and were dealt with brutally by Iyer. When it was on his legs, he flicked it or just worked it around to rotate the strike.
On Sunday, as he walked back to the dressing room, unbeaten on 128 off 94 balls, Iyer would know he had repaid the faith with yet another show of strength.
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