On his debut, Iyer takes India to 258/4 against NZ

On his debut, Shreyas Iyer shows the way as India score 258/4 against New Zealand

Shreyas Iyer was batting on 75 while Ravindra Jadeja was unbeaten on 50 at stumps

Indian player Shreyas Iyer celebrates with Ravindra Jadeja after scoring a half-century during day one of the 1st cricket test match between India and New Zealand, at Green Park stadium in Kanpur. Credit: PTI Photo

In search of an idyllic cricket experience, crowds thronged a section -- one of two old stands still not replaced by pillared structures -- at Green Park in Kanpur on Thursday. It has been five years since they last saw a Test at home so it had to be perfect. 

The stand is positioned to the right of the pavilion, and in the middle stands a massive tree. On a day like this, when the sun was hardly a concern, there was no reason to flock the tree, save for its quaint appeal and the privilege of watching Shreyas Iyer’s back-foot masterclass.  

Handed the Test cap on the morning of the opening Test against New Zealand, the 303rd Test cricketer for India showed that he could drive when the length was full enough, but his innings was built on an endless stream of cuts and pulls. 

The long shadow of the tree and those in its shade had the vantage point to witness this lesson in balance for Iyer’s ability to expertly transfer weight between feet resulted in 75 unbeaten runs. That in turn meant India would reach 258 for 4 in 84 overs when bad light forced early stumps.  

To Ravindra Jadeja’s (50 n.o.) credit, he held sway at the other end, all the while keeping Iyer on his toes with swift running between the wickets. The 113-run fifth-wicket alliance got the crowd going and allayed some of the team’s middle-order concerns. 

Still, it must be said that India should have lost fewer wickets. The pitch wasn’t placid but it wasn’t wicked either, and New Zealand’s bowlers were disciplined but not probing.

In fact, the four wickets which fell all had evidence of poor technique. 

From Mayank Agarwal’s ill-advised prod to Shubman Gill’s immature gap between bat and pad after scoring 52 runs. From Pujara’s tendency to push when the ball is moving away to Ajinkya Rahane’s perpetual issue of chopping it onto the stumps.

Kyle Jamieson dismissed three of them up as he operated tight lines and capitalised on his high release, and the on-off Tim Southee got Pujara. All of them looked good until they didn’t. 

New Zealand, at this point, can’t be faulted for thinking that opposing batsmen would either err on the side of caution or make enough errors in pursuit of aggression.  

Turned out to be wishful thinking as Kane Williamson was in for a long afternoon of changing fields, trying new bowling tandems, but mostly chasing balls to the fence.

Even an extended use of the leg-side field didn’t scuttle Iyer and Jadeja. See, that can be expected of Jadeja, who has featured in 56 Tests before this, but for Iyer to look as unperturbed was a revelation. 

Betraying his stereotype as a slasher in T20s, Iyer showed up with the tell-tales of a quality middle-order batter and more. Not only did he use angles industriously and run the runs with purpose, but he also didn’t hesitate to put away bad deliveries either. As for trademark spunk, he made plenty of room to cut a few times, brought out the paddle sweep once and smashed a massive six into the section with the tree as the day drew to a close.  

In all, it was a wholesome day of cricket and those sitting under the tree will be the first to agree.

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