There was a certain pressure building on Shreyas Iyer. A quiet World Cup 2023 campaign which comprised a solitary knock of 53* in the lopsided Pakistan encounter last month, left questions brewing over his place in the playing XI. With Suryakumar Yadav making an impact in the previous match – his second opportunity in the campaign – amid injured Hardik Pandya’s possible return for the final league game next week, veterans and experts wondered if Iyer would be the batter to make way for the all-rounder. But with a stunning 82 against Sri Lanka on Thursday – his highest score so far in the tournament – the India No. 4 put the talks to rest.
The criticism surrounding Iyer’s performance has largely been based on his apparent weakness against the short ball. He has often fallen to this type of delivery against the fast bowlers. It isn’t something new about Iyer. The talk has remained similar for over a year now.
On Thursday, following his fiery knock against Sri Lanka that helped India register their biggest-ever World Cup win (by margin) by 302 runs, Iyer was asked about the same and his preparation for the next game against South Africa, where fast bowlers would be looking to make the most of this weakness. But the right-handed batter seemed unimpressed at the query in the post-match conference and questioned the reporter saying: “When you say it’s a problem for me, what do you mean?”
The reporter quickly clarified saying that it was, “Not a problem exactly, but it’s troubled you,” but Iyer was still disappointed as he rather believed that the idea of him being weak against the short ball is a perception created by the media.
“Troubled me?” he said. “Have you seen how many pull shots I’ve scored, especially that have gone for four? If you’re trying to hit a ball, you’re bound to get out anyway, irrespective of if it’s a short ball, if it’s overpitched. If I get bowled two or three times, you all would say, ‘he can’t play an inswinging ball, he can’t play a cut if the ball is seaming’.
Video: Shreyas Iyer gets angry at short ball question after India vs Sri Lanka World Cup 2023 match
“We as players, we are bound to get out on any sort of deliveries. You guys have created that mahaul (atmosphere) outside that ‘he can’t play a short ball’, and I feel that people are picking that up every now and then and it plays on your (the media’s) mind regularly, and you keep working on that.”
The 28-year-old further explained saying that playing at his home ground, which is the Wankhede Stadium, has helped him develop his game against short deliveries.
“Coming from Mumbai, especially from Wankhede where the bounce is pretty much even, here it bounces way more than any other pitches,” he said. “I’ve played the majority of my games here, so I know how to tackle it. It’s just that when I go to hit some shots you are bound to get out and sometimes it may work, sometimes it may not, and the majority of the times it hasn’t worked for me, maybe that’s the reason you think it’s a problem for me, but in my mind I know there’s no problem.”
As far as the match was concerned, it was as one-sided as it gets. Batting first, India blasted 357 for 8 with Shuban Gill (92), Virat Kohli (88) and Iyer (82) being the top performers. Then the Indian pace trio of Jasprit Bumrah (1/8), Mohammed Siraj (3/16), and Mohammed Shami (5/18) made a mockery of Sri Lanka’s batting unit to bowl them out for 55.
This win also meant India became the first team to qualify for the semi-finals in this World Cup.