Twelve months ago, when Shreyas Iyer attempted a cut off Lungi Ngidi in Port Elizabeth, eventually top-edging it to wicket-keeper Heinrich Klaasen to fall for 30, the right hander had no knowledge that he was playing his last ODI innings of the year.
India had won the series but Iyer stood defeated with 48 runs in two innings in three chances. Prior to that, he had scored two half-centuries (against Sri Lanka) in three games. Not bad for a rookie but suddenly, he found himself off the radar.
Iyer needed a few more games to get into the system.
He kept shining through the India A games and the IPL, and recently, his twin tons in the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 tournament pulled him out of the dark. The 55-ball 147 (15 sixes and seven fours) and 55-ball 103* (10 sixes and five fours) against Sikkim and Madhya Pradesh threw light on his hunger for glories.
Sportstar caught up with Iyer to understand his mindset at the moment; with less than a month left for the IPL, the Delhi Capitals skipper couldn’t have asked for a better start to the countdown.
Q) You hit 28 sixes in the last three games you played in Syed Mushtaq Ali T20, what do you think has been bringing out the best?
A) Nothing. I played with a positive stride and I went for the kill. Sikkim was not really bad as they had got two early wickets. Once we started dominating, they fell back. We took advantage of that. I wasn’t able to pick the ball initially as it was low on pace.
You are from Mumbai, you have captained the state as well, but in the IPL, you are the Delhi Capitals skipper. How has captaincy across teams helped you improve as a batsman?
When it comes upon you, the thought process and approach towards the team changes. You become mature and you start taking responsibility as an individual. Other players also look up to you as captain and they start respecting you. You have to maintain that diplomacy in the team and you got to be careful in the decisions you take. I think I have improved a lot as a batsman and I have realised my strengths and weaknesses. I try to learn as much as possible from everywhere I play. All these things have really helped me as a captain.
Delhi has had a tough luck in the IPL. What would you like to change in the coming season? What’s your vision?
In the last season, we were relentless in the second half. We knew we had to win all games from there. Our approach had changed and I had also taken up the leadership role. Our thought process was to win every game. If we carry the same momentum right from the first match this season and can be consistent, it can help us qualify to the playoffs.
Though Gautam Gambhir stepped down from captaincy, he was still part of the dressing room and the dugout in 2018. How much did he help you in your job?
I would often ask him how the wicket would play. He is an experienced guy who has played in every stadium. Before every toss, I would take his suggestions how to go about it. He was very helpful and good in advising me.
Being a young captain, how challenging is it to approach senior players? This time, you will be leading Shikhar Dhawan and Ishant Sharma too...
They have played quite a level than I have. But I have also played along with them in the same team. I know how they are. They are very helpful. Definitely, they will give me opinions, suggestions and how to act in certain situations. Their experience will be counted.
How would you describe the brief stay with Team India?
I don’t like to talk much about that as I am playing Mushtaq Ali now. It is all past. I just want to forget it and concentrate on my cricket and perform.
You’ve worked with two legends of the game — Ricky Ponting in the IPL and Rahul Dravid in India A. How much have they contributed to your learning curve?
Dravid is organised in his approach. Whenever he talks in the team meetings, you really get goosebumps when you sit and listen. He is always reinforcing certain points from the game. It reflects on our performances. All those points are important to us whether we perform or not. He has always been there, backing us and giving us freedom.
Ponting is a very optimistic guy. He is always talking about winning. I really love his body language. Last year, when we were in a bad condition in the initial phase of the tournament, his body language to win all the time really helped. He is a good guy to be around as he treats everyone equally. There is no senior or junior in the team and that’s what we want as a team from the coach.