"Not Heard Him Whine But Setbacks Affected Him": KKR Coach On Shreyas Iyer

Shreyas Iye wasn't even among the reserve squad that the BCCI selection committee picked for T20 World Cup 2024.

May 3, 2024 - 13:30
"Not Heard Him Whine But Setbacks Affected Him": KKR Coach On Shreyas Iyer

Ahead of his side's Indian Premier League (IPL) match against Mumbai Indians (MI), Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) assistant coach Abhishek Nayar hailed skipper Shreyas Iyer for his mental strength and positive approach to life despite some ups and downs during the past few months, which include an all-time great campaign in ICC Cricket World Cup at home, back injuries, losing his Team India central contract and getting his commitment to red-ball cricket doubted on. MI and KKR will be locking horns in a high-octane clash at Wankhede Stadium on Friday. KKR is at the second spot in the points table, with six wins and three losses, giving them 12 points. They won their previous clash against Delhi Capitals. MI is in the ninth spot with three wins and seven losses, giving them just six points. They lost their previous game to Lucknow Super Giants (LSG).

It has been a mixed last few months for Iyer. After missing the IPL 2023 due to back surgery with the World Cup on his mind, the right-handed batter made his return during the Asia Cup following which he continued to battle fitness issues. He did make a return during the next series against Australia, scoring a century in one of the ODIs and solidifying for himself a middle-order spot in the World Cup, where he broke numerous records.

After a tough start in the tournament, Iyer achieved his peak form near the tournament end, with half-centuries against Sri Lanka and South Africa and two successive centuries against the Netherlands and New Zealand, with the latter coming in the semifinals against India's arch-nemesis that had denied Team India a shot at ICC title glory since so long. His hundred, that came in 67 balls, was the fastest-ever in a knockout WC game. However, he was dismissed for just four runs in the final which India lost to Australia.

Iyer ended the tournament with 530 runs at an average of 66.25 with two centuries and three fifties, scoring the most runs by a middle-order batter in the tournament's history and becoming the first-ever middle-order batter in WC to touch the 500-run mark.

However after it, Iyer had a disappointing Test outing in South Africa. He warmed up for the next Test challenge against England at home from January to March by playing a Ranji Trophy match, but he was dropped from the remaining three Tests after poor scores in first two Tests. He then missed the Ranji quarters due to back spasm, despite the Board of Control for Cricket in India's (BCCI)'s directive to not skip it. But he returned for the semifinal and scored 95 runs in the final, but missed a lot of game time during the title clash due to back pain. However, despite playing a crucial role in Mumbai's 42nd triumph, Iyer's return to domestic red-ball cricket seemed a little too late as his name was dropped from BCCI's Central Contract list in February.

After that, Iyer linked up with KKR and has featured in all games so far, scoring 251 runs in nine games at an average of 41.83 and a strike rate of 137.15, with a half-century. Though he is not at his most fluent, he has still managed to score runs after momentum was set by top-order batters Phil Salt and Sunil Narine. Despite his efforts, he missed his chance to get selected for the ICC T20 World Cup this year in West Indies/USA from June 1 onwards.

Nayar, who has known Iyer since his early days of playing domestic cricket for Mumbai, said that Iyer is one of the strongest people he has met and has dealt with all his setbacks with a positive attitude. Despite all the setbacks, Iyer is great on field, putting in long hours in nets, he added.

"He is one of the strongest people, mentally, I have ever known, just in terms of how he has accepted certain things that have happened with him. I would have seen a lot of people cribbing and talking about it, but I have not heard him whine about it or complain about it at all. The way he has approached life is in a positive manner - what is in front of you, you try and accept it," said Nayar as quoted by ESPNCricinfo.

"Certain things are not under his control but his fitness is in his control, and he is feeling a lot better now. He is great on the field, he is batting longer hours, and he has trained really hard. Our S&Cs (strength and conditioning) and physios have worked hard with him."

"Mentally, to have a mindset like that after being rejected or not getting his due, he has taken it very positively. Even when he talks about it, he is not negative, he understands he needs to go back and do well," he concluded.

Nayar said that Iyer's mindset is to score runs no matter for which team he plays.

"He looks to score runs, it (his setbacks) has affected him but the way he has handled it, kudos to him because I can imagine a lot of people reacting very differently than he has," the coach concluded.

On the bonding between mentor Gautam Gambhir and bowling all-rounder Sunil Narine, Nayar said that the bond between these two is "personal" which gets reflected in his hard-hitting batting at the top.

"It is a very personal bond. It is best understood by those two people. It is not necessarily a coaching thing, it can also be a trust thing. Sometimes just having someone in the dugout and having that aura around you can have a positive effect on the player. There can be many other things, like Gauti telling him to go there and play with freedom," said Nayar.

"Gautam Gambhir is Kolkata's golden boy, he has come and won us two championships as captain, and Sunil Narine has been part of that journey. There is always going to be a certain memory that Sunny taps into. It is a deeper bond that both of them have and that is reflected in Sunny's batting. He understands and trusts the guy trusts everything I am gonna do, win or lose, succeed or rail," he concluded.

Narine has been phenomenal this season for KKR, scoring 372 runs in nine innings at an average of 41.33 and a strike rate of 182.35, with a century and two fifties. His best score is 109. He has also taken 11 wickets and is in contention for both the Orange Cap and Purple Cap for most runs and most wickets this season.

Kolkata Knight Riders Squad: Philip Salt(w), Sunil Narine, Rinku Singh, Shreyas Iyer(c), Venkatesh Iyer, Andre Russell, Ramandeep Singh, Mitchell Starc, Vaibhav Arora, Harshit Rana, Varun Chakaravarthy, Angkrish Raghuvanshi, Suyash Sharma, Anukul Roy, Manish Pandey, Rahmanullah Gurbaz, Dushmantha Chameera, Allah Ghazanfar, Sakib Hussain, Sherfane Rutherford, Chetan Sakariya, Nitish Rana, Srikar Bharat

Mumbai Indians Squad: Ishan Kishan(w), Rohit Sharma, Suryakumar Yadav, Tilak Varma, Hardik Pandya(c), Nehal Wadhera, Tim David, Mohammad Nabi, Gerald Coetzee, Piyush Chawla, Jasprit Bumrah, Nuwan Thushara, Naman Dhir, Shams Mulani, Dewald Brevis, Kumar Kartikeya, Luke Wood, Shreyas Gopal, Harvik Desai, Romario Shepherd, Arjun Tendulkar, Shivalik Sharma, Anshul Kamboj, Akash Madhwal, Kwena Maphaka.

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