Coach Praveen Amre says protege Shreyas Iyer refuses to follow Mumbai's ‘Khadoos’ style of batting

Given the depth in Indian batting, Shreyas will just have to continue scoring runs to secure a place in the playing XI, reflects Pravin Amre, who too had scored a ton on debut like his protégé Iyer

Shreyas Iyer in action
Shreyas Iyer in action

Qaiser Mohammad Ali

Mumbaikar Shreyas Iyer’s superb century on Test debut against New Zealand in Kanpur was against the Mumbai school of batting, says his coach and former India batsman Pravin Amre. Asked what is the Mumbai school of batting, Amre chuckles and explains that it is the ‘khadoos’ attitude of taking time to build one’s innings. But Shreyas, though relatively restrained, played his natural game from the start, Amre points out.

Shreyas, who became the 16th Indian to smash a ton on debut, loves to play his shots and he scored a stroke-filled 105 after coming to the crease when India were uncomfortably placed at 106 for three. In the second innings, again batting at No.5, he scored a crucial 65 to become the first Indian to crack a century and a half-century on Test debut. His 170 runs helped India take a 283-run overall lead. Poor light on the last day robbed India of a victory.

“I never curbed his natural instinct. I was criticised for that. If the first ball deserved to be hit, he would go for it. And his style was unlike the Mumbai school of cricket – the ‘khadoos’ attitude, building an innings by taking time,” Amre told National Herald.

“He is from the new generation; I knew his thinking well. That was the reason he scored 1,300 runs [1,321 runs in 2015-16 Indian domestic season]. At times, it was difficult to explain his batting style to people who criticised his approach,” recalls Amre, who too had scored a century on Test debut, against South Africa in Durban in 1992.

The 26-year-old batted for 267 minutes, faced 171 balls, and cracked 13 boundaries and two sixes. “If you see the stats of his first-class matches, his strike rate is around 80. In red ball cricket, a strike rate of 50 is considered good; he would score a run a ball. Since Ranji Trophy matches are of four days and you have to give time to bowlers to get the opponents all out, his role would assume importance,” said Amre.

Shreyas was included in the playing XI because Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma were not available. And he grabbed the opportunity. But despite his century on debut, there was no guarantee that he would be played in the second Test in Mumbai, reflected Amre while recalling that he had spotted Shreyas at the Shivaji Park Gymkhana Academy in 2000 when he was just 12.

Shreyas went on to captain Delhi Capitals in the IPL. But he failed to break into the Indian Test XI despite scoring consistently in domestic first-class tournaments. Having made his first-class debut in 2014-15, his best home season was the 2015-16 when he aggregated 1,321 runs in 11 Ranji Trophy matches at an average 73.38, with four centuries and seven half-centuries. “For four years Shreyas has been talking about this chance only. In 75 years, he was the highest scorer for Mumbai in a Ranji Trophy season,” recalls Amre.

One reason for Shreyas being unable to get a look-in was that the Indian team's middle order was chock a block with Kohli, Cheteshwar Pujara, and Ajinkya Rahane occupying the spots.

Batsmen will always have to bide their time, says Amre matter-offactly. “And to look for that opportunity, a player will have to continue to score runs. Shreyas’s double century [202 not out, 210 balls, 306 minutes, 27x4s, 7x6s for India ‘A’ against the Australians in Mumbai in 2016-17] was a very important innings for him. For India ‘A’, he scored runs in New Zealand and South Africa, too,” he points out.

Rahane, his other product, also had to bide his time before breaking into the Indian Test XI. “He kept scoring thousands of runs for a few seasons [in 2007-08, 2008-09, 2020-11] without getting a chance. But he also knew that to play for India he will have to face tough competition, and that he wouldn’t get a chance so easily,” he stressed.

(This article was first published in National Herald on Sunday)

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