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India vs New Zealand: Shreyas Iyer stamps his authority as India’s No. 4 | Cricket News

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MUMBAI: On the evening of May 23, 2016, Shreyas Iyer appeared so frustrated he would have smashed anything in sight, just like he smoked Tim Southee out of the park to seal India’s win in Auckland in the opening T20I over New Zealand on Friday.

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That day, after having smashed 1381 runs in 11 Ranji games in the 2016-17 season — the third-biggest tally by a batsman in one edition — Iyer had found his name missing from both India squads announced for the tour of Zimbabwe and the West Indies. “I can’t talk right now,” he had told TOI, before slamming the phone down.

Almost four years down the line, the man who gave him the snub, former India batsman Sandeep Patil, who was the chief selector back then, explains why they ignored the youngster, who blasted a 29-ball unbeaten 58 to help India chase down 204 successfully.

“There’s a big gap between Ranji and international cricket. You make runs in Ranji, but get exposed in international cricket. If you look at the example of Punjab’s opener Jiwanjyot Singh, even he scored a lot of runs in his first Ranji season. He was picked in India ‘A’ next year, but he couldn’t do anything.

“A similar thing happened with so many players, like Abhinav Mukund, Sachin Baby and Mandeep Singh. The selectors thought, ‘let’s wait and see him in the second season’. Many players do well in the first season and then flop in the second. If you pick such players, the selectors get exposed. We wanted him to be more consistent, give him exposure with India A under Rahul Dravid,” Patil told TOI.

There was also another concern with Iyer: the tendency to play loose strokes when bowlers were at his mercy. “The way he was getting out after scoring brilliant 60s and 70s was something which Rohit Sharma would do as a youngster. We wanted him to be more selective and responsible,” said Patil.

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‘IPL CAPTAINCY HELPED SHREYAS MATURE’

Like in the case of Rohit, that sense of responsibility seems to have come with his elevation to the Delhi Daredevils (now Delhi Capitals) captaincy — a role which was thrust upon him after an out-of-form Gautam Gambhir dropped himself from the side. “His game changed for the better, in terms of responsibility, when he became captain, just like it happened with Rohit at the Mumbai Indians,” says Patil.

“Though he took a couple of years more, he has graduated. He must have given his approach to batting a good thought. He should make all his opportunities count, because there’s a big fight for middle-order slots.”

Iyer’s dismissals in the first two ODIs against Australia in Mumbai and Rajkot to Mitchell Starc and leg-spinner Adam Zampa also cast doubts over his ability to play high-class bowling. But he bounced back with an unbeaten 44 off 35 balls to usher India home in the decider in Bengaluru.

“He was disappointed with the way he got out in both the games against the Aussies. He badly wanted to contribute. His knock in the decider was important but it was still in India. The wickets offer a different bounce but he has adjusted beautifully,” said Pravin Amre, Iyer’s personal coach.

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MENTAL TRAINING THE KEY

Iyer has also worked on his mental strength. “I worked with him when he was playing for the Mumbai under-16 team. He’s mentally very tough. He’s also grounded and a dedicated player, who was hungry for success. Whenever I would give him certain tips, he would work on them and get the results,” said sports psychologist Mugdha Bavare.

“It’s important to train your mind. I’ve seen many players go through depression, having anxiety and also facing pressure in a tough situation. It’s quite normal. I’ve been through the same but I had Bavre ma’m besides me,” Iyer said in his testimonial on her website.

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