With the disappointment of losing the World Cup semi-final behind them, the Men in Blue have notched up their first 50-over success in the Caribbean with a 59-run win at Port Of Spain. Rain threatened to play spoilsport for the second consecutive match but the weather held up in the end.
India was led by Virat Kohli’s dazzling 42nd ODI hundred and Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s 4-wicket haul. Kohli, who went through the whole World Cup without scoring a hundred, was motivated to prove his critics wrong. The Indian captain continued his approach of risk-free batting and it paid dividends.
Bhuvi was under pressure because of the emergence of Deepak Chahar and Navdeep Saini. However, he proved to the world that he is still an extremely potent white-ball bowler. Bhuvneshwar picked up two wickets in the 35th over which all but sealed the game for the Indians.
West Indies would be kicking themselves as they let go of another opportunity to beat a top side. The collapse was similar to the many collapses that they suffered in the World Cup, and the shot selection of their batsmen needs to be looked at.
One big positive for India was the performance of Shreyas Iyer. The Mumbai batsman showed great composure while playing with his captain. His shot selection was good and his innings of 71 off just 68 balls should give him huge confidence.
If persisted with, Iyer could be an important player for India in the future. Here are three reasons India should persist with him:
#3 Iyer can solve the number 4 conundrum
Over the past four years, the biggest debate in Indian cricket has been about one topic - who bats at number four. Many players such as Ambati Rayudu, Vijay Shankar, KL Rahul, Ajinkya Rahane and Rishabh Pant have been given opportunities, but none of them has been able to seal the spot.
Iyer could solve this problem, as he has all the attributes to succeed at No. 4. The Mumbai batsman plays risk-free cricket, is a good player of spin and has a good head on his shoulders.
With someone like Pant batting at 5, Iyer could take his time and build the innings for Pant and Pandya to accelerate at the end.
Iyer also possesses good technique and can handle the moving ball if early wickets fall. The Delhi Capitals man had a good IPL season where he was steady in the middle of the innings. He scored 463 runs in the tournament, and the newfound calmness stood out in his batting.
If given a long rope at No. 4, Iyer could be the player that the management has been looking for.
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#2 Will be the perfect foil to Pant and Pandya
The Indian middle-order has some exciting batsmen like Rishabh Pant and Hardik Pandya. Both these batsmen can fulfill the finisher's role to perfection. However, India will also need someone who can anchor the middle order with sensible batting.
Iyer has a newfound maturity and calmness in his batting, which could be the perfect foil to Pant and Pandya. Iyer has learnt a lot by playing for India A and being mentored by Rahul Dravid. His sensible batting is exactly what India need in the middle, which could build the perfect platform for someone like Pant to take off from.
Playing for Mumbai and India A, Iyer has amassed 2624 runs at an average of 40 with a strike rate in the 90s. Most of these runs have come at No. 3 or 4, where Iyer has batted sensibly in the middle overs.
While chasing big targets, India would need a player who can be steady, build an innings and take the game deep. Iyer has all the attributes to succeed in that department.
With Iyer at 4, Pant at 5 and Pandya at 6, India could have the perfect balance of caution and aggression.
#1 Ability to handle pressure
With MS Dhoni at the fag end of his illustrious career, India would need someone who can handle pressure in the middle of the innings and keep the scorecard ticking with ones and twos - something Dhoni did brilliantly while batting at No. 5 or 6.
Iyer has shown that he has a great head on his shoulders and has the ability to perform in crunch situations. He led a young Delhi Capitals team to an inspired third-place finish in the 2019 IPL, where his captaincy and batting stood out under pressure.
With people like Ricky Ponting and Sourav Ganguly to learn from, Iyer's mental game improved by leaps and bounds.
With his ice-cool temperament and solid cricketing brain, the 24-year-old has all the traits to succeed under pressure at the international level. Moreover, playing with the likes of Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma in a high-pressure environment is going to give him the perfect experience and help him become a better player in the long run.