Updated: December 28, 2018 8:42:58 am
THE car hasn’t moved for a while now and Shreyas Iyer says he hasn’t seen such a traffic jam before in Worli. It’s not only his car which is crawling but Iyer’s cricketing career too is in slow motion these days. At least that’s how it looks from the outside. Iyer says he isn’t frustrated that he is out of the Indian team but he chooses a rather interesting state of mind to describe his feeling: “I am emotionless now”. It’s not that he doesn’t care. Rather, he doesn’t want to care so much that all joy ebbs away from him. He doesn’t want to obsess – and let all the negative feelings associated with it to overwhelm him.
In a freewheeling chat, he opens up on a lot of subjects that young cricketers usually shy away from in an effort to be diplomatic. He talks about how players like him “need more rest”, about how he tackles loneliness on tours, and doesn’t shy away from his vision of becoming a “very big batsman”.
But first, let’s delve into his current state of mind. “I don’t feel anything from the inside these days. Koi feeling hi nahi aa raha hai. For me somehow it (fussing about Indian call) isn’t important. I am emotionless now. Someone comes and says, I am in team, I am not in team, kuch farak nahi padhta (it doesn’t matter much),” he says.
Since making his debut in 2014, in the last three Ranji Trophy seasons, Iyer has piled up 809, 1321 and 725 runs respectively. He was picked for Indian T20 team in December 2017 against visiting New Zealand. He also played six ODI’s, scoring two fifties from five innings. Then the selectors decided to look at other options. His stay with the national team was all too brief. In all probability, he won’t play the World Cup as selectors have decided to go with Ambati Rayudu, who too has had to sweat it really hard for a spot in the middle order.
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He says he took the decision not to fret too much about selections during the series against West Indies. “I have stopped thinking too much. It all started against West Indies. I told myself that I want to enjoy my life, mazaa karna hai. I don’t want selection issues to rule my happiness. Otherwise I would get frustrated and thinking about the future will ruin my present also. It’s better to enjoy life – selection is a temporary thing,” he says.
Sometimes, he is reminded of the non-selection at the unlikeliest of places. The other day, during a Ranji game in Mumbai, he was mobbed by fans for selfies and autographs. Someone told him that he wasn’t in the Indian team for Australia and New Zealand.
“I said yes I know. Ab kya bolun? (What else can I say?) Other day someone asked whether I will play World Cup? These days I just say I don’t know,” he says.
There are other issues that a player who is trying to find a place in Indian team goes through. Like constantly being on the road. No time for rest. Cricket can be an all-consuming affair. He hasn’t reached a place, like say Shikhar Dhawan, where he can skip Ranji Trophy. He needs the runs there, he needs to be performing always. He has barely spent any time at home in the last six months.
Fatigue has been a side-effect of all that. “Body is completely tired, I am fatigued mentally. But no one is going to say take rest, Kisi ko farak pada nahi hai kuch (no one cares),” he says. Since the IPL, he has been part of India A and turned for his state for Vijay Hazare and Ranji Trophy. Does he then think that someone should tell him to take rest? “Yes. We are not machines. I wanted to tell this in any interview. There is no one to tell that players don’t get adequate rest. We are playing non-stop for two years. Zara sa break nahi milta. I am out of home for 300 days. Even if am in India, I am not home.”
It’s not easy saying no, of course. Sometimes out of the need to keep performing and at times, due to loyalties. Like it was when Mumbai asked him to turn up for a game against Saurashtra, just few hours after he returned from India A tour of New Zealand.
“Haan wohi, you can’t also say no. Situation is such. Other day I was in New Zealand when Mumbai asked me whether I can play next game because if Mumbai wants to go to knock-out stage, we need to win all games. How can I say no to Mumbai?” he says.
The long tours without rest, endless nights in hotel rooms, can make one lonely. Iyer talks frankly about it. “I do feel loneliness. Once, when I was playing for India A and on a tour, I felt very lonely. How do I spend time? I listen to music and there is always Netflix. It can get tough. We players do feel homesick; people who watch us playing should realise what we go through.” Netflix has helped; he has binged on Money Heist, Narcos, and Bodyguard recently.
He doesn’t hide the fact that the situation of being in the fringes of the national side can be unpleasant feeling. “It (frustration) was there for last four years. Hoga hi na, kisi ke saath bhi hoga (It will happen, to anyone right?) So I decided not to think about it at all.”
It’s not as if the selectors have abandoned him. Some do talk to him, offering comfort with how they know what he is feeling and that to keep working hard. “I just say yes, nod my head. I have no say in this. I have to perform in whatever matches I get in front of me and am doing just that. Bas, Life is simple.”
It’s not always that easy, though. Sometimes, even if one doesn’t want it, the team-mates and friends do remind you about it, albeit unconsciously. Like reminding how the competitors are doing.
“I don’t care, mujhe koi farak nahi padhta seriously. I don’t follow others scores but my team-mates keep telling me, what’s happening here and there, who is scoring how much! I just listen.”
The one thing that has always stood out with Iyer is his self-belief. He might be in the fringes these days but his forecast for his future is bright. “I see myself as a very big batsman. I have visualised and made it my vision a long time back.”
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