There’s an air of uncertainty over Shreyas Iyer’s fitness after he was forced to miss the Super Fours match against Pakistan in Colombo following back spasms during warm-up.
The BCCI issued a statement on Tuesday saying he was “feeling better” but sources told The Telegraph that the medical team at the National Cricket Academy (NCA), where he underwent rehabilitation following back surgery in April, isn’t willing to take any risk. In case the batter doesn’t show significant improvement in the next few days, he might be called back.
“Shreyas Iyer is feeling better but is yet to fully recover from back spasm. He has been advised rest by the BCCI medical team and has not travelled with the team to the stadium today...,” the BCCI said in Tuesday's statement.
He is currently being remotely monitored by NCA’s head of sports science and medicine, Nitin Patel, though the contingent in Colombo includes trainer Rajnikanth who oversaw the rehabilitation of Shreyas, KL Rahul and Jasprit Bumrah.
It was learnt that there is still no clear mandate on whether Shreyas’ spasm was linked to the “nerve compression” or slip disc which needed surgery. It could also have been a result of muscle tear but the NCA’s medical unit is taking a cautious approach with the World Cup less than a month away.
The humid and energy-sapping conditions in Colombo could also affect Shreyas’ fitness and the medical team may play safe at this point if he doesn’t recover soon. The NCA has kept all options open and doesn't want to take any decision in a hurry.
Sanju Samson, who had travelled with the squad as a cover for KL Rahul, has since returned home but with Suryakumar Yadav and Tilak Varma already among the 17 members, a replacement may not be needed.
Shreyas played the group league matches against Pakistan and Nepal in the Asia Cup but felt the spasm minutes before the toss in their Super Fours fixture against Babar Azam’s men. It prompted the team management to hurriedly replace him with Rahul at the last minute.
Rohit Sharma called it a “forced change” at the toss which was reflected in the team sheet, which had Iyer marked at No. 4, with Rahul as the 13th man. The two then swapped places, with the numbers being crossed out.
Shreyas had an encouraging comeback in Pallekele scoring 14 off nine deliveries before Fakhar Zaman held on to a blinder at short mid-wicket off Haris Rauf. He didn’t need to bat in the second match as India won by 10 wickets.
There has been a lot of unease over Shreyas’ fitness, especially since he was coming off a back surgery which takes some time to heal. He had even told the BCCI’s official website that he was surprised with his speedy recovery.
Shreyas cleared the fitness test on August 18, two days before the squad for the Asia Cup was picked.
Former captain and coach Anil Kumble was also worried about the injury. “It is a bit of concern going into the World Cup. It is a massive concern since you want your chosen XV to get as much game time as possible... He is still probably not fully ready and these games would have probably helped him get into full fitness,” Kumble was quoted as saying by ESPNCricinfo.
Shreyas’ injury has opened the doors for Rahul who stamped his form with an unbeaten 111 against Pakistan at No.4 on Monday. Having recovered from a thigh injury-induced surgery in June, he suffered a niggle in his groin last month which delayed his recovery.
On Tuesday he was the second-highest scorer for India with 39 off 44 balls against Sri Lanka after Rohit's 53.
The Asia Cup could be the last opportunity for the team management to try out Varma or Surya as a back-up. The selectors too will also have to take a quick call on whether they will persist with Shreyas in the World Cup.
The BCCI has time till September 28 to make changes to the provisional squad.