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Iyer & Siraj: A selection for the future

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Shreyas_Iyer_Mohammed_Siraj_India_CricketIndia’s squad for the three T20Is against New Zealand is largely unchanged except for the inclusion of two new faces: Mumbai batsman Shreyas Iyer and Hyderabad pace bowler Mohammed Siraj.

The Indian team has looked the same for quite a while. Adding these two players makes things more exciting and is a step in the right direction for Indian cricket.

Rearing young talent is a must for any cricket side. With the 2019 World Cup in mind, this is the perfect time to test as many talented youngsters as possible.

While both Iyer and Siraj have had contrasting paths to their call ups, there is no denying that the two youngsters have oodles of talent and could be the future of Indian cricket.

It remains to be seen just how many opportunities they get in the T20I series against New Zealand. In the already clogged middle-order and bowling line up, captain Virat Kohli would have to be prudent with how he utilizes these two youngsters.

Here’s how the two have risen through the ranks, and what makes them exciting prospects.

Shreyas Iyer

Flamboyant, fearless and uninhibited. These attributes perfectly describe Mumbai’s Shreyas Iyer. Not just knocking on the selectors’ door, he has been threatening to break it down with his incredible performances in domestic and first-class cricket.

Iyer first made news when he amassed a colossal 1,321 runs in just 11 matches (with 4 hundreds and 7 fifties) in the 2015-16 Ranji season as an opener. His most prominent effort came in the final, where he struck a sparkling 117 to help Mumbai to their 41st Ranji title. He was the leading run-scorer of the season by a distance and had announced himself into the scene in grand fashion. He has not looked back since.

The Delhi Daredevils drafted him into the IPL in the same year and has shown his class there as well over the past couple of seasons. While he did have a moderate Ranji season last year (725 runs from 10 matches), he has found his footing and is scoring big runs in important matches again.

 

This year, Iyer has been in terrific touch. A magnificent 202 in the three-day tour match against the visiting Australian side in February started things spectacularly. In August, he smashed an unbeaten, match-winning 140 in the tri-series final in South Africa after an unexceptional series prior to that game. He followed this up with a solid 108 and 82 in a couple of innings in the unofficial Tests against New Zealand A. A few days later, he scored another classy knock of 90 off 73 balls, this time in the second unofficial ODI against New Zealand A. Iyer has thus shown his propensity to score truckloads of runs in all formats with equal effectiveness.

 

A stylish opener with solid technique, the 22-year-old Iyer has all the shots in the book and is a true modern-day batsman. His approach is fearless and he never gets bogged down, even when the fastest of bowlers are at him. He cuts and drives the ball extremely well and loves to punch the ball in the V. Overall, he is a complete package.

The Indian batting unit is star-studded and definitely has an abundance of talent. However, many main batsmen have not been very consistent of late. Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Ajinkya Rahane and Kedar Jadhav have all been guilty of inconsistency. Trying Iyer as an opener or in the upper middle-order might not be a bad idea.

India has tough overseas tours to South Africa, England and Australia coming up. They need their batsmen to be ready for the challenge. The talented Shreyas Iyer can certainly make a difference if given a proper chance. With his incredible run of form and the skills he has exhibited, it would be surprising if he does not succeed.

Mohammed Siraj

Everyone loves a rag-to-riches story. And every cricket fan loves to see a young, exciting pace bowler come up. Mohammed Siraj ticks both boxes.

The son of an autorickshaw driver in Hyderabad, Siraj’s rise through the ranks has been remarkable. The 23-year-old started playing with a cricket ball only in 2015 and has featured in only 14 first-class matches till date. And yet, there is that raw talent in him that one simply cannot ignore.

After some incredible performances in his initial club level days, Siraj was drafted into Hyderabad's Under-23 side and subsequently to the senior side. In the 2016-17 Ranji season, Siraj ended as the third highest wicket-taker with 41 wickets at an average of 18.92 in just 9 matches.

On the back of that breakthrough performance, the young fast bowler was selected in the 2017 IPL by the Sunrisers Hyderabad (for a whopping INR 2.6 crore, no less). There too he had a superb season, capturing 10 wickets from six games.

 

Siraj is sturdy, has pace in his arsenal and is very accurate. That is a lethal combination. That is why there is such a buzz around him. He gets good seam movement off the pitch at pace, which makes it difficult for batsmen to get him away. He gets the ball to swing in to right-handers and has a very quick bouncer in his repertoire.

 

Most importantly, though, Siraj has displayed the instinct to snare crucial wickets at important stages. That bodes well for the fast bowler as he steps into the international arena.

Siraj is still in good form. On India A’s tour of South Africa in August this year, Siraj had a superb match haul of 5-103 in the only unofficial Test against South Africa A at Paarl. In the limited overs tri-series of the same tour, he snared five wickets in three games. And now, to celebrate his maiden India call-up, Siraj ripped apart Karnataka in a Ranji Trophy game this week with a terrific spell of 4-42.

At 23 years of age, this is the perfect time to try Mohammed Siraj in the shorter formats and see how he holds up in international matches. One of India’s biggest banes has been their inability to capture 20 wickets in overseas Test matches. With the right backing and guidance, Mohammed Siraj may well become the ace in India’s bowling armory in the days to come.

In conclusion

These are exciting times for Indian cricket. Both Shreyas Iyer and Mohammed Siraj have heaps of talent and a lot of fans will be eagerly looking forward to see them perform. Although it would be imprudent to expect too much out of them too early, one can’t help but feel excited at seeing these two prospects. A good showing in the upcoming T20I series against the Blackcaps may pave the path to regular places in the Indian side. And from there, a new chapter in Indian cricket history.

That, however, is a discussion for another day. For now, it is time to cheer the rise of Shreyas Iyer and Mohammed Siraj and their possible induction into the national side. One hopes that these two exciting youngsters can carve a permanent space for themselves in the Indian team.

 

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