Should his fitness assessment prove he is capable of handling the load of a Test match, Shreyas Iyer will return to the Indian eleven for the second Test against Australia in Delhi, confirmed head coach Rahul Dravid, who stressed that the performances of a player before being sidelined due to an injury are valued a lot by the team management when they look at the team composition.
Iyer has been out of action since featuring in the ODI series against Sri Lanka last month, with a back injury forcing him to miss the New Zealand series as well as the first Test in Nagpur. In his absence, Suryakumar Yadav was handed a debut but Iyer, who has now become an integral part of the Indian middle order in Test cricket, has been cleared by the BCCI medical team and is all set to replace his Mumbai team-mate for the Delhi Test that starts on Friday.
“I’m glad that he’s back and he’s fit. We’ll take a call after a couple of days of training. He’s had a long session today, he’s done some training today. We’ll assess it tomorrow as well once he comes in for a light hit, and see how he feels in the evening. But certainly if he’s fit and ready to go, and ready to take the load of a five-day Test match, then without doubt his performance means he’ll walk straight into the side,” said Dravid at the press conference on Wednesday (February 15).
“Without it being written in stone and without it being a rule, certainly we value the contributions of people who’ve been there and if they’ve missed out due to injury then they really deserve the right to be able to come back in. If they have performed, irrespective of what has happened in the time they have been injured…it’s something that I can’t answer for everyone but that’s certainly the outlook of the team management.
“So it’ll be nice to have him back and he’s certainly been one of our better players, so he deserves it. And I think people in the team understand that as well, they know that if they are replacing someone injured and if that person comes back, and he will probably come back, then the same thing will be followed for them as well. If they get injured then hopefully we’ll be able to give them the same treatment as well,” added Dravid.
Iyer, who made his Test debut against New Zealand in Kanpur in November 2021, has played seven Tests in which he has scored 624 runs, including 1 hundred and 5 fifties. While Iyer’s ability to play spin well is considered a key skillset in Asian conditions, Dravid also pointed to his temperament in handling pressure, citing the example of the Bangladesh Test in which he and Ashwin led India to victory from a precarious situation.
“Shreyas has played well against spin but what’s really stood out has been his temperament,” said Dravid. “We’ve been in quite a few pressure situations with Shreyas around. Right from the first Test match, his debut game in Kanpur, in the last year and a half and every time we’ve been in some tough situations, he, Rishabh and Jadeja really have been the ones who have been bailing us out and playing those critical knocks. His temperament in Bangladesh when we were under pressure, along with Ashwin, so I think that’s something that is a really good sign.
“Obviously along with his skill of playing spin very well – he’s spent a lot of time in domestic cricket before getting in, so he obviously understands, he knows how to get runs – but I think at this level also what really counts is your ability to deal with those pressure situations, the temperament, the ability to find solutions and find answers when you’re under pressure, and I think from the little small sample size that we have, he’s been very, very good at that,” said the coach.
India have a good record in Test matches in Delhi where they have been undefeated since losing to the West Indies in 1987. But Dravid isn’t looking into the past records, insisting that even the first Test is past them now and they are looking to concentrate on the present.
“After just one Test, our mindset doesn’t change because we know that in one Test, you can play very well. We also know that Australia will be looking to fight, they would have learned from the Nagpur Test. They will be keen on using the learnings from the Nagpur Test. We will also look to continue the good cricket that we displayed in Nagpur. We won’t go too much into history. We want to stay in the moment. By history I mean leave 1987, we are not even resting on the laurels of the Nagpur Test win. That’s in the past. We have now come to Delhi. Whatever has happened has happened in Nagpur. We have to play good Test cricket here.”