Shreyas Iyer's entry has reduced Team India's middle-order concerns

Updated: Dec 19, 2017, 15:23 IST | Harit N Joshi | Visakhapatnam

Mumbai's Iyer makes case for a longer run as India's middle-order batsman with two half centuries in three ODIs during recently-concluded series v SL

One of Team India's major concerns in ODIs was the middle order muddle. After 29 ODIs and maintaining a clean slate in bilateral series this year, this plot seems to have thickened further with the entry of Shreyas Iyer. Although the Mumbai batsman may be just three ODIs old, his consecutive half centuries in the second and third matches against Sri Lanka didn't go unnoticed. On a seaming Dharamsala track, Iyer perished on nine in his debut match, but he made the most of his opportunities in Mohali on Wednesday and here on Sunday. Iyer's attacking show remained the standout moment.

In Mohali, skipper Rohit Sharma hogged the limelight with a power-packed double century to help India level the series. But Iyer matched his skipper and statemate stroke-to-stroke during his 88-run knock. On Sunday in the series decider at the ACA-VDCA Dr YSR Stadium, Iyer virtually overshadowed centurion Shikhar Dhawan at one stage with his clean strikes during his 63-ball 65. Iyer's positive intent came in for special praise from skipper Rohit.

India's Shreyas Iyer en route his 65 during the third one-dayer against Sri Lanka at Visakhapatnam on Sunday. Pic/AFP
India's Shreyas Iyer en route his 65 during the third one-dayer against Sri Lanka at Visakhapatnam on Sunday. Pic/AFP

'Iyer's batting, a big positive'
"The batting of Shreyas Iyer was a big positive. The way he came out and batted was brilliant. We never felt from the outside that he has played only a couple of games. We felt that he's been there for a long time. He batted fearlessly and got the result he wanted," said Rohit after India's thumping win over Sri Lanka to clinch the series 2-1 and also register their eighth successive ODI series victory. Iyer, who replaced injured Kedar Jadhav in the first ODI versus Sri Lanka, upped his stakes in India's middle order conundrum, giving the selectors and team think tank a problem of choices.

Iyer, who was initially drafted in the T20I squad against SL, took rested skipper Virat Kohli's spot at No.3 and went about his batting in similar aggression. He was, however, guilty of throwing away his wicket in the final ODI with a mistimed shot. Iyer's performance will invariably increase the pressure on the likes of experienced Dinesh Karthik, Manish Pandey and Jadhav. India's unbeaten bilateral series record in the ODIs this year has left the middle order untested to a large extent. Karthik played in eight matches this year and has scored two unbeaten half centuries - 183 runs in seven innings at an average of 61. Pandey has been shuffled between No. 4 and No. 6 in ODIs, but has yet to deliver with a convincing knock. At the No. 4 position, Pandey managed 183 runs in seven innings while at the No. 6 spot he has scored 137 in five innings.

Pandey fails to capitalise
Pandey has had a few golden opportunities to make his case stronger, but failed to capitalise on them. His first chance came in the second ODI against Sri Lanka at the R Premadassa in September when he managed just 36. He again missed opportunities during the Chennai and Kolkata one-dayers against Australia, managing zero and three respectively. Pandey also failed to seize a big moment against Sri Lanka in the Dharamsala ODI where even a 30 or 40 run-contribution from him would have been a major positive. He instead perished for just two as India folded up for 112. Injured Jadhav is a valuable asset with his part-time spin. Iyer, nonetheless, grabbed his opportunities to make a case for himself which will be hard to ignore.

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