December 2014 – Ranji Trophy – Mumbai Vs Jammu & Kashmir.
A young 20 year old walked out on the Wankhede pitch for his First Class debut with many dreams. He walked back to the pavilion with paltry scores of seven and one. But that did not hinder his morale.
The Mumbai team gave him a longer rope in the same season. Perhaps the great minds of cricket recognized the talent the young boy possessed, and the youth rewarded that faith with 809 runs at an average of over 50, and finished seventh on the highest scorers list.
That boy, now a 22 year old, is Shreyas Iyer.
In a span of just two years, he has become one of the most probable names to be selected for the final two Tests between India and Australia.
In 2015, Iyer was snapped up by the Delhi Daredevils for Rs 2.6 crores and once again, he repaid the faith placed in him. He was the top scorer for his franchise in his debut season, with 439 runs from 342 balls in 14 games.
Keeping with this trend, he topped the chart of run scored in his second Ranji Trophy season, with 1321 runs. In his 2016-17 Ranji campaign, Iyer delivered with 725 runs, enough to take Mumbai to the finals.
From then, there has been no looking back for the youngster. He has had multiple opportunities to play against visiting teams in the warm up games ahead of Tests. He scored a 100 off 91 balls against Bangladesh, helping India A overshadow the visitors. Against the Aussies, his undefeated double century made headlines.
I spoke to the young, very talented and humorous Iyer in an exclusive interview.
Life has understandably changed for Iyer, especially after his first IPL season. Fame and money are now constant companions for the Mumbai batsman. “Whenever I go out people give me looks, they get confused if the guy is Shreyas Iyer or someone else, that’s just how (in)famous I am,” he laughs.
The right-hander first made national headlines when Delhi Daredevils bought him at the 2015 IPL auction for a whopping INR 2.6 crores. As we have already seen, he repaid the investment with interest.
“Life changed a lot after the IPL. I had never expected to be signed for such a huge price at such a young age. Life became challenging too, as people started having expectations from me.”
Between a disastrous First Class debut in late 2015 and a double century against Australia in early 2017, the Mumbai lad underwent an immense transformation in his approach.
“I did not play any rash or untimely strokes against Australia. I have grasped the awareness that I need to play according to what the team and situation demands. I don’t go and play according to my style which was at the start of my Ranji career.”
“I have gradually changed my approach and I now focus on what the team needs of me.”
The Delhi Daredevils are known as an outfit full of youngsters, and players like Sanju Samson, Karun Nair and Iyer have, under the guidance of mentor Rahul Dravid, transformed into better batsmen.
“Rahul Dravid is cool, calm and composed. Without any hesitation you can go up to him any time and ask for his thoughts and ideas. In fact, he will come up to you rather than you having to go to him.”
As far as the tenth edition of the incredibly rich Indian Premier League is concerned, Iyer is confident of a good season because he thinks he is fully prepared.
“It will be challenging because after the double ton, the expectations from me will be even higher. But I am fully prepared and have no doubts in myself.”
In the India A vs Australia tour game he hit the first ball he faced, off Nathan Lyon, Australia’s best spinner, for a six. And that led to some sledging from the visiting men. “After I hit the very first ball for a six, they sledged saying I was hitting hard because the IPL was near. But as long as they were not hurling abuses, it was fine.”
A confident Iyer also added that he didn’t struggle against any particular Australian bowler. “Well, on that particular day, I did not find any bowler tough,” he said.
Much like many other cricketers, Iyer’s first love was football, until professional cricket happened to him.
“I am a football fan. I used to follow Chelsea at the time when I was completely addicted to the game. Then gradually the interest started dwindling and now I only follow footballers like Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Cristiano Ronaldo.”
When asked, if given an opportunity, whether he would like to play football with Zlatan or face Shane Warne’s deliveries, the 22-year old admitted a preference for football.
“If given a chance I would have been a footballer. I wish I was born in a European country,” he joked.
After the double ton in warm-up against Australia, Iyer is knocking loudly on the Indian selectors’ door. And he is certain that a national call-up is close.
“I don’t think a national call-up is far away after the knock against Australia. I think it is very close.”
Indian selectors, are you reading?
Fast. Lite. Innovative. Shareable. Download our HW Cricket app!