India vs New Zealand T20I series: Shreyas Iyer, the finisher!

Team India finds a new finisher in Shreyas Iyer, who slams his second fifty of the week, this time against New Zealand in the first T20I on Friday.

India batsman Shreyas Iyer in action against New Zealand in the first T20I in Auckland on Friday.   -  GETTY IMAGES

 

Shreyas Iyer seems to be the new chase master and finisher in Team India. For the second time and inside five days — the last being in the third ODI against Australia in Bengaluru — the right-hander remained unbeaten while guiding his side to victory, albeit in different formats.

After the 35-ball 44* — for a winning cause — against Australia in the ODI series decider, he hammered a 29-ball 58* —  comprising five fours and three sixes — in the first T20I against New Zealand in Auckland to take his side home with six balls to spare.

Chasing 204, Iyer took guard at a crucial juncture in the match. Virat Kohli had just got out and India needed 83 more off 53 balls. Bringing all his IPL experience into play, he effortlessly found the gaps to keep the required rate in check. He tore apart the seasoned Tim Southee in the 19th over — by smashing two sixes and a four — to finish the game.

IND vs NZ 1st T20I| Scorecard

In an earlier interview with Sportstar, Iyer had emphasised on his learnings from the IPL, and specially captaincy. The leadership role in Delhi Capitals (DC) helped widen his horizons. There were star players playing under him.

“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,” said Iyer, who also captains Mumbai in domestic cricket depending on his availibility.

Iyer even took pointers from DC coach Ricky Ponting. “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," he had said.

Shreyas Iyer with Ricky Ponting in Delhi Capitals colours.   -  FILE PHOTO/ VIVEK BENDRE

 

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Iyer has been on the fringes since 2017 but there were frequent exits. Two years ago, when he attempted a cut off Lungi Ngidi in Port Elizabeth, eventually top-edging it to wicket-keeper Heinrich Klaasen to fall for 30, he had no knowledge that he was playing his last ODI innings of the year.

Shreyas Iyer in action against South Africa in 2018.   -  FILE PHOTo/AP

 

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 when he needed a few more games to get into the system.

He kept shining through the India A games and the IPL leading the Delhi Capitals. The twin tons in the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 tournament in 2019 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.

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Iyer bounced back into the ODI fold in August in West Indies. He scored four fifties, on the trot, in the five odd-games he played from August to December against the Caribbeans — away and home.

"Amazing to win a game overseas and finishing not out is special. We had lost quick wickets, so we had to build partnerships. We always knew we can score runs because this is a small ground. Looking forward to similar support in the remaining games as well," Iyer, who won the 'player of the match' award, said after the six-wicket win over the Kiwis.

Similarly, he found his T20I spot back against South Africa. Today’s knock will provide him the much needed confidence and zeal to tear apart any attack come the ICC World Twenty20 in October.

Iyer could have been the No. 4 India needed in the Cricket World Cup 2019. He is leaving no stone unturned to prove the selectors wrong but now, the T20 mega event will be his main focus.

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