IPL 2019: Shreyas Iyer determined to end Delhi Capitals’ barren run
Shreyas Iyer scored twin centuries in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy and has been in stellar form. (AFP Image)

Flashback to 2013. Midway through the IPL, Rohit Sharma took over the captaincy of a struggling Mumbai Indians from Ricky Ponting and led the franchise to its maiden title. Prior to that season, MI’s best performance was a runner-up finish in 2010. But things changed drastically under Rohit, who has since lifted the side to three IPL titles. (READ: Rechristened Delhi hope for Capital gains)

Turn to 2018, a young Shreyas Iyer found himself in a similar situation. With expectations high from Gautam Gambhir to repeat his Kolkata Knight Riders heroics for the Delhi Capitals (formerly Daredevils), the franchise slumped to a string of losses before the former India opener resigned mid-season. Similar to Rohit, Iyer was appointed captain, and even though a fourth wooden spoon could not be avoided, he did manage to win four games towards the end. (READ: Shaw wants to take IPL 2019 by storm)

Heading into IPL 2019, Iyer will be leading the Capitals from the very first game and remains fiercely determined to lead them to their maiden IPL glory, as audacious a claim as it may sound. And in Rohit’s captaincy for MI, Iyer has the perfect blueprint to turn things around for the Capitals. (READ: Vihari targets IPL 2019 to show limited-overs credentials)

“He’s been a great inspiration for all the cricketers and we’ve seen him growing. Definitely, he’s one of the people I look up to personally. And yes, individually if you see he was also given that opportunity to lead the team,” Iyer told CricketCountry. “I haven’t really spoken to him about captaincy or anything but you obviously pick up a few things from a good captain. So as far as I’m concerned, I just want to make the best use of it make things right for Delhi Capitals, which people think is impossible at the moment. I want to change that mindset and break the jinx.

“I’m really excited to be captaining the side from the very first match. Definitely I’ll be well aware of individual mindsets and their approach towards their performance. I am looking forward to each and every individual to have a great season and it s going to be equally important for us to get the best out of the preparations.”

The Capitals have finished at the bottom of the points table four times, more than any other IPL team. Understandably, the expectations are colossal, not just from the people but also the franchise, who seem to be pulling out all the stops. Last year, Iyer led from the front to score 411 runs at a stunning average of 138, but that is just one among the many disappointing chunks the Capitals will have to let go off to start afresh this season.

“It’s important to forget the past. The players obviously know that Delhi haven’t been doing well and every player is aware of it. So, we just got to be believing in ourselves. It’s equally important to enjoy each other s success because that s what brings out the best in a team,” Iyer said.

Iyer has captained India A against England Lions and Mumbai in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy. In both series, he has shown no signs of letting captaincy affect his batting. In fact, Iyer has piled runs almost at will, scoring twin centuries against Sikkim and Madhya Pradesh in the shorter format. For India A, since 2016, Iyer averages 42.59 in 55 matches, aggregating 2087 runs 12 half-centuries and four hundreds.

“I really relish the role of captaincy. It makes you mature and responsible. When I go out there, I don t think about much; I just want to enjoy my innings out there. I know I have patterned my innings in such a way that I know when to strike the ball and when not to. I play few balls at the start because I know I can make up for that later on,” he added.

“It really helps a batsman, especially to coming from a tournament with runs behind you. As a batsman you are confident of doing well ahead of the next. You know you’re going to get the best out of yourself and ensuring that the team wins. That’s what Mushtaq Ali did to me. I got a good start against Sikkim and was able to continue it throughout the series.”

But despite such stunning numbers, Iyer finds himself out of India’s scheme of things. India’s 5-1 series win in South Africa was a fabulous feat, but Iyer stood defeated with 48 runs in two innings. There have been heavy clamours for Iyer’s inclusion as India’s No. 4 have been, but in all probability, he won’t go to the World Cup as the selectors seem to be content with Ambati Rayudu.

In six ODIs, Iyer has 210 runs with a best of 88. (AFP Image)

“See I’ve been doing that for the last few years. Currently my focus is majorly the IPL so I’m not thinking about the World Cup. It s not in my hands. What is in my hands though is to score runs and the selectors are doing their job. I ve been doing my job for the last few years quite truthfully.

“I wouldn’t say I haven t been deserving but probably the selectors felt that there are players far better than me. That s not what I think but every individual gets a chance. The selectors asked me to keep doing well and I will get my opportunity to play again for India soon.”

In December last year, Iyer attracted controversy when he blatantly stated how tired his mind and body were following a gruelling season. Reflecting upon his statement, Iyer pointed out it wasn’t because he was frustrated. He said what he felt and admitted that truth can at times be hard. Iyer still stands by it, not bothered by the consequences. But the 2019 IPL could very well be Iyer’s biggest moment of truth, as another good season could very well trigger his selection in India’s World Cup squad.

“On paper it’s a really good team. But as we all know that the main ideas is to get the best out in the field,” Iyer said. “At the start of the IPL last season, we weren’t getting good starts, especially by the openers. But as the tournament progressed, out openers started doing well and we gained that momentum. After that I took the captaincy and we won four out seven matches so that really helped us with positives. The ones we lost were close games and we could have won them as well. But at the end of the day these are learnings. You try to get the best out of what you’ve lost and I think we have sat down and analysed the areas we went wrong. This year, we are going to come with all guns blazing.

“We’ve got a great bunch of players. If someone goes out or is injured, we ve got a great backup. The bench strength is amazing. Individuals are focussed and motivated. We have a lot of newcomers who are waiting to prove themselves.”

Iyer came into the then-Daredevils’ setup in 2015 as the most promising youngster to watch out for, and eventually walked away with the Emerging Player award that year. Four years later, Iyer, now the captain, has a chance to do the unthinkable.

“It’s been a wonderful four-year period. It has been a roller-coaster ride for me, full of ups and downs, what every sportsman experiences in his life. Thankfully, I’ve been scoring runs form the last few years and I just want to maintain the same consistency and create something which people think is not possible. Life would come full circle,” Iyer said.