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IND vs NZ: India’s Shreyas Iyer stays in the now to bring up Test ton on debut

09:37 PM Nov 26, 2021 | S. Sudarshanan

“Don’t think about the past, don’t think about the future. Be in the present,” were Sunil Gavaskar’s words to India’s latest debutant Shreyas Iyer while presenting him with the Test cap.

Iyer tried to be in the present. He was unbeaten on 75 at the end of Day 1 of the first Test against New Zealand in Kanpur. There was a hundred on debut for the taking. He couldn’t sleep well.

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The 26-year-old got a gentle ‘good morning’ ball first up from Kyle Jamieson, which he duly flicked to the mid-wicket fence. Three balls later, a short and wide ball was steered through point for another four. Into the eighties.

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Ravindra Jadeja was set up cleverly by Tim Southee and dismissed in the next over for his overnight score of 50. Wriddhiman Saha, whose last Test was in Adelaide in 2020, came in next. Iyer then got another freebie in the next over which he dismissed for four. 88.

For the uninitiated, Jamieson has been India’s nemesis in Tests. Yet, on the second morning, he seemed to have suddenly lost his rhythm, bowling to Iyer, who was glad to get two more hit-me balls to swiftly get to 97. Iyer was happy ruining Jamieson’s bowling average that stood at an incredible 14.17 before the start of the Test.

A single off Tim Southee in the next over took him to 98. And quiet poetically, he brought up his maiden hundred in Tests off Jamieson’s bowling, albeit not in as commanding a manner as he had scored a majority of those.

Raised bat, raised helmet, a warm hug followed. Nothing over the top. Iyer stayed in the present.

“My aim is to think about today and not think about what's going to happen in next game because if I think about that I won't be in present and won't be able to perform on a given day. Whatever happens, happens for the best, and I will take it in my stride,” Iyer would say in the post-match presser later.

Iyer’s ton at number five was the first for India at that spot since Ajinkya Rahane scored one against South Africa in Ranchi in 2019. In fact, in Tests since 2018, no other batter apart from Rahane scored a hundred batting at that spot. Rishabh Pant came close twice earlier this year.

Is Iyer the number five batter India need for the long haul?

Iyer, if given more opportunities, will have to score well consistently to make the No.5 spot his own. Especially in SENA (South Africa, England, New Zealand and Australia) conditions, where his temperament will be put to a sterner test.

Iyer had last played a red-ball game in 2019. Moreover, he was out of action for a good part of the last eight months due to a shoulder dislocation. And yet, Iyer the Test batter that turned up in Kanpur could well have been the Iyer, who played a defining knock at the Green Park in Kanpur in his maiden First Class season for Mumbai in 2014.

With Mumbai gasping at 53 for five in pursuit of Uttar Pradesh’s first innings score of 206, Iyer played a strokeful 78-ball 75 at number seven, which proved to be match-winning.

Pravin Amre, who was Mumbai’s coach then, helped him during rehabilitation and kept reminding Iyer about not donning the whites yet. And so, a dinner invite had to be sent by Iyer after the 105.

“After today's game, not game, basically after today's century, I'll message him and invite him for dinner,” said Iyer after the day's play on Friday.

“Pravin sir, obviously, whenever I go for training, he keeps on saying that you have achieved a lot in your life, you have been the captain of an IPL team, you have scored so many runs, this and that, but that was in white-ball cricket.”

"But your main achievement would be when you receive the Test cap and I am sure he would be really happy when I received it.”

The job is far from over, though. Led by Tom Latham and Will Young’s twin fifties, New Zealand ended the day on 129 for no loss. India have a huge task of bundling the Black Caps out.

However, for now, the 16th Indian to score a century on Test debut, can well plan for the dinner.

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