The measured ton by the 27-year-old batter at Ranchi in a must-win encounter of the three-match series reiterated his potential as a serious matchwinner for India in coming days.
In the last five ODIs he has featured for the men in blue, Shreyas has registered scores of 113*, 50, 44, 63 and 54 respectively, giving a clear indication of his exemplary form in the white ball format.
Despite his staggering ODI figures in recent times, Shreyas was not included in the 15-member Indian squad set to compete at the T20 World Cup in Australia, starting 16 October.
The Mumbai batter made it into the standby list of players alongside Mohammed Shami, Ravi Bishnoi and Deepak Chahar but his participation in the mega event seems highly unlikely.
Having said that, let’s look at the few probable reasons that could have resulted in Shreyas missing out on a World Cup ticket.
Suryakumar’s Rise as a Top T20 Batter
The turn of the year witnessed the rise of a new T20 middle-order batter for Team India in the form of Suryakumar Yadav. The 32-year-old leads the 2022 run-scorers chart for India in T20Is with 801 runs from 23 matches at an impressive strike rate of 184.56.
With six fifties, one hundred and an average of over 40 this year, Suryakumar’s rise has been so rapid that he has eclipsed even experienced campaigners like Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma to become India’s premier T20 batter.
Suryakumar’s consistent displays with the willow has resulted in the Mumbai batter making the No.4 role his own, leaving no room for other contenders. Prior to Surya’s arrival in India’s T20 setup, the spot was mostly handled by Shreyas Iyer.
Shreyas had dislocated his shoulder in an ODI against England in March last year, forcing him to miss half of the IPL 2021 season and India’s international fixtures.
The road to recovery and lack of international exposure resulted in Shreyas being omitted from India’s squad for the 2021 T20 World Cup in UAE. Since then, Shreyas has found it hard to nail down a spot in India’s T20 side despite impressing when offered a chance.
His 64 off 40 balls in India’s win against West Indies in Lauderhill last August proved that he still had the capabilities required to excel at the international level.
However, Suryakumar’s T20I dominance this year has been unparalleled that Shreyas’s India team return now seems like a distant dream.
Yadav also possesses a better away career average (38.55) and strike rate (181.67) compared to Shreyas, who has 28.37 and 121.39 respectively, meaning the former has a better chance of succeeding in away conditions.
With the World Cup set to feature in Australia, Suryakumar’s statistical history certainly makes him a better fit in the Indian team ahead of Shreyas.
Stacked Middle Order
Not just Suryakumar, India also have Virat Kohli, Deepak Hooda, Rishabh Pant, Dinesh Karthik, and Hardik Pandya as middle-order batting options to choose from when they feature in the upcoming World Cup.
One of India’s top batters in the past decade, Kohli’s records speak for himself. He in fact holds the record of being the first player in T20 World Cup history to win successive man of the tournament awards (2014, 2016), making him an indispensable member of India’s T20 side.
Hooda, meanwhile, has had a stellar start to his T20I career as his numbers suggest. The 27-year-old who debuted earlier in February 2022 has played 12 times and scored 293 runs at an impressive strike rate of 155.85 and a 41.85 average.
Rishabh, on the other hand, has not enjoyed the success his teammates have in 2022. It has been a year of ups and downs for the wicketkeeper-batter as he still manages to carve out a place for himself in the T20 playing XI.
However, Team India have persisted with him and his past exploits in Australia for the country's Test side seemed to have worked in his favour.
Hardik Pandya and Dinesh Karthik are the designated finishers within the unit and have executed their roles to perfection. Both the batters have a strike rate of over 150 this year and were stand-out players for their respective franchises in IPL 2022.
Hardik went on to win the IPL 2022 captaining Gujarat Titans while Dinesh helped his side Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) enter the semi-finals. With Team India having already assigned specific roles and crammed with talents in the middle, Shreyas’s opportunities look very limited.
Short Ball Issues
The image of head coach Brendon McCullum suggesting his England fast bowlers to use the short ball ploy against Shreyas Iyer in the Edgbaston Test back in July is still vivid in the minds of cricketing fans.
McCullum had in the past worked with Shreyas as the coach of IPL outfit Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) and was aware of the batter’s frailty against pace and short balls.
Shreyas’s issues with pace and the short ball have since then been long discussed, and it was most recently seen in the second ODI against the Proteas. He took a cautious approach against pacers Anrich Nortje and Kagiso Rabada before getting into his groove.
An affluent player of spin, Shreyas was visibly more comfortably against spinners Keshav Maharaj and Aiden Markram, whom he cut, sliced and slashed over the ropes.
Considering the batter’s inherent weakness against pace and short balls, India would have considered it a risk to include him in the trip Down Under, where the pitches are predominantly fast and bouncy.
Shreyas has majorly batted at No.3 or No.4, be it for India, Mumbai or his IPL franchises. However, the game necessitates batters to slot in at any position due to the unpredictable nature of the shortest format.
Shreyas has scarcely been put in such a spot where he had to feature in a different role. Meanwhile, his peers Kohli and Suryakumar, who don a similar role in the side such as his have done so with aplomb on numerous occasions.
Kohli has opened the innings for both India and RCB with success in the past while Suryakumar has played in various positions as a top order batter for his IPL sides. Internationally, Surya featured four times as an opener in the five-match T20I series against West Indies last August.
Whether Shreyas is capable of such versatility up the batting order is a debate for the future. At the moment he clearly is not, having not yet proved his credentials.
Meanwhile, India opted for the internationally less experienced Deepak Hooda over Shreyas due to the flexibility he brings into a side. Hooda can bat in any position from opener to No.7, and has proved the same with India and his IPL franchises.
He is also a handy bowler who can chip in with his off breaks. Hooda’s all-round abilities make him an asset for any captain in the shortest format. Shreyas, on the other hand, has hardly ever bowled and has just two balls to his name in his T20 international career to date.