Just before the start of the second Test in Cape Town, Shreyas Iyer straightaway walked outside the Newlands Stadium for throwdowns after arriving for an optional training session. The two throwdown experts Nuwan Senaviratne — the southpaw side-armer — and Raghavendra, along with batting coach Vikram Rathour, were letting it rip from 18 yards. The idea was to get the flashy Mumbaikar match-ready for short balls which has been his problem across formats from the time he made his debut. Few minutes into the session, he got one throwdown from 18 yards, short and mean into the body that kicked up from length. It was more than 150 clicks due to the shorter distance traversed. The bat didn’t come down in time and he was hit on the fleshy area between upper and lower abdomen.
He threw his bat and was literally writhing in pain. He crouched for some time trying to breathe as the physio and other support staff joined to check on him.
The issue was both mental as well as technical as Iyer didn’t look comfortable at all but with no worthy middle order reserve batter in the ranks, the Kolkata Knight Riders skipper had no competition.
He has so far played six knocks in SENA nations and his sequence of scores were 15 and 19 (Birmingham), 31 and 6 (Centurion), 0 and 4 not out (Cape Town). His Test average has now dipped from a near 50 to less than 40.
There is no doubt that Iyer is a master player against spinners and will not have problems tackling James Anderson or Chris Woakes to deliveries that won’t rise above knee roll.
But on Australian tracks, come December 2024-25, if Iyer’s game doesn’t undergo sea change technically with proper head balance and may be slightly more chest-on stance, his struggles are certainly going to compound.
A slightly chest-on stance and a proper back and across movement would give a chance to tackle the bumper stuff.
But at nearly 30 years of age with a set muscle memory, it could be difficult to change his game upside down.
In 1982-83, Mohinder Amarnath, during his dream season, had a stance that was a bit chest-on and any bouncer that was bowled targeting his right shoulder, he would take it on the body and anything on left shoulder would be hooked imperiously.
Easier said than done but Iyer will have to find his own way.
Iyer is a player who primarily plays with hands with not much pronounced footwork. Hence on bouncy tracks, he is mentally always expecting short ball and is perennially on back foot even to deliveries where he needed to be on front foot.
He is having cold feet, thinking that he will always be fed with short balls.
“My job is to give them confidence. Rohit, Kohli and KL, we all have learnt from travelling,” captain Rohit Sharma said about Iyer, Shubman Gill and Yashasvi Jaiswal, considered to be flag bearers of Indian batting, who struggled to cope with bounce.
“They will learn what to do and not to do. In India, the scenario is different. India is also very challenging. We have seen wickets like this in India too. It will be challenging going forward too.
“You have to learn from these kind of experiences. Your confidence goes up when you do well in these conditions,” Rohit said.
However, there are skeptics too. Former India batter Sanjay Manjrekar, in an interaction with ESPNcricinfo, said that he expects Gill and Jaiswal to learn by the time Australia tour comes calling but is “not so sure” about Iyer.
Recently, Iyer didn’t like when he was asked about his issues with short ball.
“What do you mean?” he had countered and also felt that it’s a perception that’s being created.
Iyer is in denial mode now and perhaps could only do course correction when he accepts that he has technical issues while facing short ball.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)
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