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Test series: Team India's Shreyas Iyer sits out with stiffness in back and bat struggles  

Instead of going back to Ranji grind, out-of-form batter will now head to National Cricket Academy in Bangalore

Indranil Majumdar Calcutta Published 10.02.24, 04:45 AM
Shreyas Iyer.

Shreyas Iyer. File picture

A day before India won the second Test to level the series, the Ajit Agarkar-
led selection committee had made up its mind to keep Shreyas Iyer out of the squad for the remaining three matches of the series.

Shubman Gill, however, survived an imminent axe following his century in the second innings in Visakhapatnam. But the writing was on the wall for Iyer, whose struggles with the bat were well documented.


Hours before the selection committee was supposed to meet, Iyer had made himself unavailable on Friday complaining of stiffness in the back. He will now have to spend time at the National Cricket Academy in Bangalore for rehabilitation though the selectors had wished he featured in some Ranji matches to fine-tune his technical shortcomings.

While Iyer has always struggled against the short-pitched stuff, he is considered by some pundits to be currently one of the finest exponents of tackling spin in home
conditions. His exploits in the four innings of the series — 35 and 13 in Hyderabad and 27 and 29 in Visakhapatnam — haven’t been satisfactory and lacked fluency.

Iyer’s last significant contribution has been the 87 he scored against Bangladesh in Mirpur in December 2022 and he has since gone without a half-century in his last 13 innings. His performance in the two Tests in South Africa was also disappointing.

The imminent return of KL Rahul for the Rajkot Test had made Iyer’s place uncertain with the selectors likely to give Rajat Patidar another opportunity.

While the team’s medical staff didn’t report any fitness concerns with Iyer in Visakhapatnam, his sudden stiffness was learnt to have set in a day or two after the Test.

He though displayed superb athleticism on the field during the match and even ran out Ben Stokes with a direct hit following a terrific sprint from short mid-wicket.

Iyer had proved his fitness by playing a Ranji match for Mumbai against Andhra in the lead-up to the Test series under instructions from the selectors.

Last year his back spasm during the fourth Test of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy was linked to a “nerve compression” or slipped disc which needed surgery.

As a result, he missed most of India’s engagements at home and away and was available only for the Asia Cup in September.

Recurring back spasms restricted his involvement to just two matches but he returned in the ODI World Cup and performed to potential — 530 runs in 11 matches.

He is expected to be available for Kolkata Knight Riders in the IPL this season.

He hasn’t been considered for the T20Is recently, having been overlooked for the series in South Africa and against Afghanistan at home.

Iyer’s fitness has always remained an enigma and the back stiffness will only add
to the confusion. It will come as no surprise if the selectors decide to look beyond Iyer in Test cricket.

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