Not long after he faced the bowlers in the nets close to centre pitch in Mumbai on Tuesday, Shreyas Iyer took strike on the nets pitched on the other side to face the throw-down specialist. It was exclusively against bouncers. The mechanical side-arm throw wasn’t used but the balls were repeatedly flung short with the left-arm.
He had two sessions against the bouncers – one at the far end with the left-arm thrower Nuwan Seneviratne and later at the nets, closer to the main pitch, with the coach Rahul Dravid joining in with the throws. Shreyas’s approaches at the two nets were contrasting.
Before we get to how he tackled them, let’s rewind to his quote from earlier this year about the short-ball issue: “If I can leave or keep it down, I definitely won’t have a problem”. In the games this world cup, he has certainly not tried to leave them. On occasions he has tried to keep them down, but hasn’t quite been able to roll his wrists over the ball and ride the bounce. Resultantly, in the game against New Zealand he holed out in the deep. Against England, he tried to pull a ball which wasn’t that short, and miscued it straight up.
And so on a warm Tuesday late afternoon, he seemed to be working on a different method first.
At the far net against the left-arm thrower, he didn’t try to keep the ball down, didn’t bother to roll his wrists. Instead, he went for the sixes. He kept pulling the ball up and over the net on the left side and the ball repeatedly soared into the stands – the net was at the far end from the centre pitch, and hence closer to the stands.
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Every now and then, the left-arm throw specialist from Sri Lanka, would walk across for a chat with Shreyas. He would proceed to wallop the ball again in the air, clearly looking to hit it up and over, rather than keep them down. Rinse and Repeat.
Then came the second net and the second approach.
There was a change in the method now. This time the thrower hurled the ball from around the stumps and banged it short below chest high but outside the off stump. In the first nets, the balls were from over the wicket.
This time around, since the balls weren’t bounced that high and more importantly were outside the off stump, Shreyas would swivel and hit the ball into the side-net. In the first session, on the other net, he was consciously clearing the net on the leg side -going up and over them and into the stands. Not here, as he was fetching the ball from outside off stump. One such back-of-length short ball outside off had consumed him against England.
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The head coach Rahul Dravid, who wasn’t there in the first bouncer session, joined here, throwing a few balls with the mechanical side-arm. Unlike the Sri Lankan, though, Dravid mostly hurled the ball really full for the off drives.
Once at least, Dravid shadow practiced a few pulls. It wasn’t a demonstration to the batsman as he was doing it on his own when Shreyas was facing the other bowler. It’s silly to state the obvious but Dravid’s wrists were riding the imaginary bounce rather nicely. Nostalgia is always the best wrinkle cream out there.
After more than an hour of batting just against the short ball, not counting his time against regular bowlers, long after all the other batsmen had left the scene, Shreyas finally winded down and flopped himself in the plastic chairs under the umbrellas behind the nets. Rahul Dravid joined him shortly, and he led an animated chat with his left hand doing myriad gestures. 15 minutes later, Shreyas got up, donned his sunglasses, and both walked back to the dressing room.