Shreyas Iyer Walks Tightrope Between Brilliance and Arrogance

Shreyas Iyer in action vs England in Vizag (Image: Debasis Sen)

It is a really thin line between brilliance and stupidity. Between confidence and overconfidence, and between self-belief and arrogance. If the lofted shot over mid-off had come off in Vizag and not landed in Ben Stokes’ hands, it would have ranked as a stroke of aggression from Shreyas Iyer. Because it did not, it will go down in history as an example of overconfidence. A moment that could have cost India the match and, for the second time, exposed the immaturity in Iyer.

But does Shreyas, a man of talent, always need to live on the edge? Play in a manner in which the mundane and conventional have no place? Frankly, that’s all that he requires. A degree of pragmatism and a dash of the conventional. The flashes of brilliance are all there. And they will be on display every now and then. Be it the Stokes run-out or the catch to dismiss Zak Crawley in Vizag, Iyer will do things that force us to stand up and take notice. Appreciate the X-factor that he brings to the table. But then, there is the period of the mundane. Not every ball can be a stage, and not every moment is theatre. This is Test cricket, and it stretches to five long days.

The boundary, had it gone over Stokes’ head, wouldn’t have changed the game for India. It would simply have meant four more runs. Four runs fraught with risk. Four runs which would have resulted in oohs and aahs from the fielders. Higher-decibel commentary from the men with the microphone before things settled down the next ball. No more, and no less. And that’s what Iyer needs to understand. The risk, or rather, in his case, the theatre, comes with an element of risk that his team can ill afford. It could be the difference between victory and defeat. Between glory and humiliation. Between immortality and a lost opportunity.

Shreyas Iyer walks out (Image: Debasis Sen)

Had Iyer not given his wicket away in the second innings, India could have got more than 300. It is a story of what-ifs. And that’s what Shreyas, more than anyone, needs to eliminate if he wants to be a great. With Virat Kohli, someone whose No. 4 position Iyer occupied in Vizag, there was never a what if. For a decade and more, he was rock solid. No drama, no theatre, no frills. But runs and catches. And in abundance. Not to forget the greatness to go with it. Yes, you can get a good ball in difficult conditions and you can get out. That’s fine. It wouldn’t be the first time that such a thing happened. But don’t get out being cocky and trying to be brilliant. Not needed at times when plain prudence and being a tad boring are good enough.

Yes, the match was won and Jasprit Bumrah salvaged the situation for India. As I said, it has been a story of what-ifs. A story of brilliance ceding ground to foolishness, and confidence giving way to arrogance. But there is still a Test match to be played next week and a lot at stake with the series 1-1. In sport, it is winner take all. And the winner could well be boring. That’s all India needs to learn. The bowling, to be honest, has been good. Selection questions notwithstanding, Kuldeep Yadav did well. So did R Ashwin and Bumrah. It is about the batting. About reputations. Credibility, and doing justice to the talent. Iyer can’t get out twice in two innings playing false shots. He just can’t.

In sport, strange things happen. Roberto Baggio missed a penalty in a World Cup final and Usain Bolt’s last hurrah on track ended with a hamstring injury and grimaces on pain on the last leg of the 4x100m relay. Roger Federer lost to rank outsiders. Such things have happened in sport, and will continue to once in a while. But they don’t happen often. That’s why they are upsets. Elements of surprise. Flukes, for the lack of a better word. That’s what India and Iyer will need to eliminate and guard against in Rajkot. Repeat mistakes can’t happen if you are a good team. And they have already happened twice in this series. For the sake of Indian cricket and its fans, one can hope that lessons have been learnt. The tendency to showcase brilliance notwithstanding.

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