How did India’s middle-order batsman prepare for bouncers
In the intense training sessions at the Wankhede Stadium, Shreyas Iyer, the skilled Indian batsman, found himself challenged by a specific aspect of his game – handling bouncers. These deliveries, aimed at testing a batsman’s skill and courage, have been a part of cricket‘s strategy for decades, and mastering them is essential for a batsman’s success on the international stage.
Iyer’s struggle against the short-pitched deliveries was evident in recent matches, prompting him to dedicate considerable time and effort to rectify this aspect of his gameplay. His training regimen was meticulous and well-structured, focusing on facing the bouncers from different angles and heights. The crux of his preparation lay in two key sessions against a left-arm thrower, Nuwan Seneviratne, and later, with the participation of head coach Rahul Dravid.
Head coach Rahul Dravid, who had not been present during the first session, joined in with his own throws using a mechanical side-arm. While the Sri Lankan specialist concentrated on throwing full-length deliveries for off-drives, Dravid occasionally demonstrated pull shots, showcasing the technique of riding the bounce effectively.
Iyer dedicated more than an hour to practicing against the short ball, long after other batsmen had finished their sessions and left the scene. He finally wrapped up his practice and took a break in the chairs under the umbrellas behind the nets. Dravid soon joined him, engaging in an animated conversation, using various gestures to convey his insights. After the discussion, Iyer put on his sunglasses, and both walked back to the dressing room, signaling the end of a productive and focused the practice session.
In the initial session, Iyer faced Seneviratne, who hurled short-pitched deliveries from over the wicket. Contrary to his previous attempts in matches where he mistimed pulls and holed out, this time, Iyer adopted a different approach. Instead of trying to keep the ball down, he aimed for the stands. With remarkable precision, he pulled the deliveries up and over the net on the left side, sending them soaring into the crowd. It was a clear departure from his earlier attempts to keep the ball grounded; this time, he sought the maximum by hitting it high and far.
Throughout this session, Iyer maintained a relentless focus, repeating the process numerous times. The left-arm specialist from Sri Lanka would occasionally engage in discussions with Iyer, providing crucial insights and suggestions. Iyer’s determination to clear the net on the leg side showcased his eagerness to rectify his previous shortcomings, especially the instances where he struggled against deliveries outside off-stump.
The second half of the his training was equally intense but followed a different strategy. In this session, the thrower positioned himself around the stumps, directing the bouncers outside the off-stump but below chest height. Iyer, recognizing the slightly lower bounce and the delivery’s trajectory, adeptly swiveled and directed the ball into the side-net. His adjustments were apparent – he fetched the ball from outside the off-stump, ensuring he was better prepared for similar deliveries in future matches.
Rahul Dravid, the legendary cricketer and head coach, joined Iyer for this crucial training phase. Dravid’s invaluable experience and expertise came into play as he offered guidance and occasionally demonstrated shots himself. While Dravid predominantly focused on full deliveries, he did engage in shadow-practicing pulls, displaying his exemplary wristwork and technique. Observing Dravid’s skills up close, Iyer gleaned insights into the art of playing the pull shot effectively.
After an extensive session that lasted over an hour, during which Iyer faced a barrage of bouncers, he finally concluded his training. While other batsmen had left the practice area, Iyer persisted, demonstrating his commitment to honing his skills. Following the rigorous training, he took a moment to relax, reclining in the plastic chairs under the shade, contemplating the improvements he had made.
Dravid, always an observant mentor, joined Iyer in a spirited conversation. Using expressive gestures, Dravid conveyed valuable feedback, reinforcing the technical adjustments Iyer had made during the training. Their interaction highlighted the collaborative effort between player and coach, emphasizing the importance of mentorship in cricket.
As the session concluded, Iyer, with newfound confidence and a refined technique, walked back to the dressing room alongside Dravid. The intensive training against bouncers had not only improved his gameplay but also instilled a sense of self-assurance, setting the stage for him to face similar challenges in the upcoming matches.
In the world of cricket, where constant evolution is essential, Iyer’s dedicated efforts and the guidance of mentors like Rahul Dravid underscore the sport’s intricate nature. Every aspect of a player’s game, including mastering bouncers, requires meticulous preparation, resilience, and the right guidance. As Iyer continues his journey in international cricket, the lessons from these intense training sessions will undoubtedly play a pivotal role in shaping his performance on the field.