By Niharika Raina
New Delhi, Nov 26 (IANS): Shreyas Iyer's maiden Test hundred against New Zealand delighted one and all. But his coach and former India batter Pravin Amre was pleased with how he managed the risk factors and adapted according to the situation in his 171-ball stay at the crease.
When Iyer dabbed through point off Kyle Jamieson on the first ball of the 92nd over for two runs, he became the 16th Indian batter to get a Test century on debut, a commendable effort considering the circumstances when he walked in to bat.
"What red-ball demands from you; like playing in a pressure situation and playing in different conditions or the condition is not suitable to you and you have to adapt to it, this is exactly what he did. His game is actually when the ball comes; he can drive and play the pull shot. But here, in this particular innings, he had to wait for the loose balls and then play accordingly.
"He avoided certain shots so that the chance of getting out was minimised. I think his risk management was excellent. He handled himself very well and made sure that Team India gets a respectable total," said Amre in a telephonic conversation with IANS.
Despite the challenging situation and a slow pitch doing odd tricks, Iyer did well in performing as per the team's requirement. "His game is based on natural instincts. He likes to go and dominate. But the situation was not there. The team's requirement was about building a partnership, which he did with Ajinkya Rahane and Ravindra Jadeja. It was important, like from there to get 300 on the board. His contribution really helped India get to 300 runs," noted Amre.
On the morning of his Test debut, Iyer had received his cap from legendary batter Sunil Gavaskar, also a fellow Mumbaikar. Amre, who has known Iyer since he was a 12-year-old at Shivaji Park Gymkhana, felt that receiving the Test cap from a stalwart of the game must have spurred him in doing well.
"For any player, it is a dream to play for India, especially in Tests. I feel that he was motivated after being given the Test cap by none other than Sunil Gavaskar sir. Maybe, that helped him to get a big knock for whatever he advised him, he implemented that," Amre told IANS.
Amre believes that Iyer, who hit 12 fours and two sixes in his knock of 105, has cashed on the opportunity in the absence of senior players with both hands. "Well, I think it was a tremendous innings, especially under pressure. Not only the situation when he came in to bat today because importantly, he knew that this is an opportunity with three big senior players like Virat, Rohit and Rahul (injured) rested. He was waiting for this opportunity, especially after he had scored 1,300 (1,321) runs in a record-breaking (Ranji Trophy 2015/16) season for Mumbai. He was looking for his opportunity."
Iyer's knock of 105 revived his previous career connection with Kanpur. In the 2014/15 Ranji Trophy season, Iyer's first season in first-class cricket, Mumbai was under pressure early on. A loss to Jammu and Kashmir followed by Railways taking a first-innings lead meant that the most successful team in the tournament's history went into the match against Uttar Pradesh in a must-win scenario.
On a green pitch, Mumbai were reeling at 53/5 before Iyer resurrected the innings with a strokeful 75 in the first innings, setting the base for the win over Uttar Pradesh. Amre, who was Mumbai's coach in that season, drew parallels between that knock in 2014 and the Test hundred in 2021.
"Both were similar knocks. That time also, he was under pump. If he would have been a failure, he would have been dropped. Same thing was here. He was under pump, like if he couldn't have scored, then whoever backed him, like the selector or team management, they would have been disappointed because you are giving an opportunity when the seniors are not there. But then it is always difficult when they come and how can they give an opportunity to any youngster? I feel that the result looks good. The situation is exactly the same to what was in 2014, where he was playing for his survival in the team," Amre told IANS.
2021 has been an eventful year for Iyer. In March, he had dislocated his right shoulder while fielding during the first ODI against England in Pune. A subsequent surgery followed by lengthy rehabilitation meant that Iyer missed out on a large chunk of competitive cricket, making a return in September with IPL 2021.
Recalling that phase, Amre, who worked with Iyer during his comeback phase, said, "That was most painful. For any cricketer, you know you are injured and then you are doubtful in your career whether you are able to play the same way before you were stopped from playing. Especially for him, like, he was looking good in that particular series against England. Then, this thing happened. So, he had to start from zero again, like to get physically fit first and then the mental fitness was so important. He worked really hard on it and it never looked like that he had an injury basically."
Amre knows a thing or two about making Test hundred on debut in challenging situations. Back in 1992, Amre had scored a hundred on debut against South Africa in Durban, making 103 off 288 balls while sharing a stand of 101 with Kiran More. Amre signed off by expressing happiness over the fact that the feeling he experienced in 1992 is now being felt by his ward in Kanpur.
"When you score, you definitely feel happy. But you are more happy when your ward scores a hundred. You know what that feeling is, which you cannot compare in the world. That's a different experience. I am glad that he is having that experience of how it feels, going under pressure and everybody is looking after you after delivering what the team needed from you," Amre told IANS.