How football with Bollywood buddies & chat with MS Dhoni helped Shreyas Iyer overcome tricky phase

It’s unfortunate when you lose your spot in the team due to injury. It’s a shame when you are stripped of captaincy because of the same injury. But it’s a mark of greatness if you overcome all of these and scale greater peaks.

India batter Shreyas Iyer did just that by becoming the 16th from the country to score a hundred on Test debut, eight months after he was sidelined with a shoulder injury.

The 26-year-old must have hated life when he had to watch the then-ongoing England series, the first half of the IPL and the Sri Lanka series in July, all on TV. Moreover, Rishabh Pant was appointed the new Delhi Capitals (DC) captain and it was clear he would continue leading the side even after Shreyas came back.

Behind the scenes, though, he put in the hard yards at the NCA in Bengaluru to rejig his body. But it was football that helped him regain full fitness and allowed him to hit the ground running when the IPL resumed on September 19. Just before kickstarting preparations with DC, Shreyas played some football matches with his Bollywood friends in Mumbai and they also had MS Dhoni partaking in a few of those games.

Asked if playing football enabled him to switch off from the past mishaps and start afresh, Shreyas revealed he was part of the All-Stars football group to get his stamina up to the mark and be in a competitive environment.

“It didn’t switch me off completely because my focus was more on cricket rather than playing football. But I really love going out there and trying different sports – whether it be table tennis or badminton, but football is something I’ve been playing from my school days. And when I went and played with my Bollywood friends over there, they were very competitive and they were friendly at the same time.

“So it was a good mixture, and also I wanted to get into that competitive zone and see it to that my fitness level was pretty intact. Because you keep running 90 minutes and it’s about how your stamina pans out throughout the game,” Shreyas said in reply to a Sportskeeda query at the press conference after Day 2 of the first Test against New Zealand.

He added that conversing with MS Dhoni calmed his nerves.

“And also Mahi bhai was there and we spoke little bit about IPL at that point of time – never discussed about winning the IPL (chuckles). You know he is really calm and composed, whenever you for a chat, he’s got so much so experience in the IPL and different forms of the game, so it’s always fun to chat with him,” the Mumbai lad mentioned.

Shreyas top-scored for India in the first innings, amassing 105 off 171 balls with 13 fours and two sixes to boot. Ajinkya Rahane’s boys got to 345 before Kiwi openers Tom Latham (50* off 165) and Will Young (75* off 180) ended Day 2 with an unbroken opening stand of 129.

“I will only come to your place for dinner if you score a century” – Pravin Amre’s message to Shreyas Iyer

Shreyas Iyer with Pravin Amre during a DC training session [Credits: IPL]
Shreyas Iyer with Pravin Amre during a DC training session [Credits: IPL]

Every sportsperson has had a fatherly figure in their journey. In Shreyas’ case there have been two – one, his biological dad, and the other, former India and Mumbai batter Pravin Amre. Acknowledging his exploits in white-ball cricket, both of them have always pushed him towards the longest format.

Amre was Mumbai coach in Shreyas’ debut domestic season and the 53-year-old has always harped about the importance of playing Test cricket. Interestingly, both of them are now part of the list of Indian centurions on Test debut.

“Whenever I go for training, he keeps on saying that, ‘You have achieved a lot in your life. You have been the captain of an IPL team, this and that, but that was in white-ball cricket. But your main achievement would be when you receive the Test cap’. And I am sure he would be really happy when I received it and he was like, ‘I will only come to your place for dinner if you score a century.’ So after today’s century, I am going to message him and invite him for dinner,” Shreyas exclaimed.

On the other side, his dad, Santosh Iyer, has had his WhatsApp profile picture as Shreyas holding the 2017 Border-Gavaskar Trophy from when he was called in as replacement for Virat Kohli in the Dharamshala Test match.

“He obviously loves Test cricket the most, and giving this gift of century would be the best achievement for me and also for him as well as a father. So it’s a great feeling for both of us, and my mom and dad have been really supportive throughout my journey and they have been the pillars of my success so far, and they’ll always be. So I’d like to thank them and my whole family who have really supported me,” he concluded.

However, it would be unfortunate (again) if Shreyas loses his middle-order spot when the incumbent captain Virat Kohli returns for the second Test in Mumbai next week. If not, it would indeed be a fairytale for him to play in front of his home crowd, hopefully with both Pravin Amre and his family watching on from the stands.

Q. Can India gain a first-innings lead tomorrow?

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