Shreyas Iyer’s superb form in the One-Day International series against West Indies has impressed Indian captain Virat Kohli who said the Mumbai batsman can be a “regular feature in middle order” if he continues taking responsibility like he did during the series.
Kohli smashed back-to-back centuries to lead from the front in the 2-0 series win in the three-match contest against West Indies while Iyer scored consecutive fifties to also play a big role in the victory. The duo had partnerships of 125 and 120 in the second and third ODIs under tricky situations.
“Both times he was batting with me. I have been around for a while and he was not intimidated at all, he was very confident, very sure of his game. At no stage he looked like getting out, that is great to see,” Kohli said on Wednesday after India beat West Indies by six wickets under Duckworth/Lewis Method to clinch the three-match ODI series 2-0.
“He has suddenly presented a role for himself, coming in and playing according to the situation. Hopefully he builds on to this and keeps performing like this for the team ... he can be a strong contender and a regular feature in the middle order,” the Indian captain said.
The Indian team is still trying to figure out its middle-order puzzle and Iyer’s ability to handle pressure with calm and composure can offer a solution to the problem.
“We were under a bit of pressure but his (Iyer’s) knock was game-changer (in the third ODI). I think Shreyas, the way he played took all the pressure off me and I could just play with my usual tempo and control the game from one end,” said Kohli who hit 114 not out off 99 deliveries in the third ODI at Port of Spain.
“He understood the value of performing in these situations. It will only boost his confidence further,” he added.
The 30-year-old Kohli said Iyer reminded him of his own early days in the India side.
“I was exactly the same when I came in – any opportunity I got I wanted to win games for my team and play according to the situation and you have to take risks. He (Iyer) was brave under pressure. You need to reveal your game to realise who you are, what your game is and what kind of a player you are.”
Kohli said his experience helped him overcome pressure situations in both the matches against the West Indies. The first ODI was called off after 13 overs due to rains.
“I have been around for a while. Experience counts in pressure situations, understanding where the game is heading and what I need to do in terms of the tempo. So, you obviously want to take a lot of pride in stepping up for the team as much as you can and I definitely take a lot of pride in that,” said Kohli who now has an average of above 60 in the ODI format.
“Shikhar and Rohit have been brilliant performers for us, one of them usually gets a big score, but if they don’t then it’s my responsibility in the top three to get a big score. That’s how we played and why we have been successful – 75 per cent win percentage in last three-four years. We have a good template to follow as a team.”
Talking about the third ODI, Kohli conceded his team was nervous when West Indies openers Chris Gayle and Evin Lewis had raced to 114 off the first 10 overs.
“It was actually good that we got game time and we got those wickets otherwise we would be chasing close to 280 in whatever overs we had bowled. So, that would have been a humongous task on a pitch that was slowing down,” he said.
“When Chris and Lewis play like that you know why they are rated as two of the most dangerous players in the world, especially in white-ball cricket. We tried literally everything and bowled every ball possible, but they were just absolutely brutal, that was tremendous batting from both of them.”