ANI Photo | “Struggled with back issues after World Cup, no one agreed to it…”: KKR skipper Iyer ahead of IPL final

Ahead of his side’s Indian Premier League (IPL) final clash against Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH), Shreyas Iyer, the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) skipper, opened up on his struggles with back issues after the Cricket World Cup last year and how nobody was agreeing with it.
KKR and SRH will be locking horns in the final of the IPL 2024 at Chennai’s Chepauk Stadium on Sunday. KKR finished the league stage on the top of the points table with nine wins, three losses and two no results, giving them 20 points. They earned a direct spot in the final by defeating SRH in the qualifier one. SRH got a second shot at the title in the qualifier two against Rajasthan Royals (RR) and they made most of it by defeating the Men in Pink by 36 runs.
It has been a tough and mixed last few months for Iyer. After struggling with fitness issues and form last year, Iyer finally made his Indian comeback in Asia Cup where he once again faced back issues. He made his return in the ODI series against Australia just before the World Cup and solidified his spot in the middle-order. Despite a rough start to the marquee tournament, Iyer had an all-time great World Cup campaign. Iyer ended the tournament with 530 runs at an average of 66.25 with two centuries and three fifties, scoring the most runs by a middle-order batter in the tournament’s history and becoming the first-ever middle-order batter in WC to touch the 500-run mark. Iyer achieved his peak form near the tournament end, including two successive centuries against the Netherlands and New Zealand, with the latter coming in the semifinals against India’s arch-nemesis in 67 balls, the fastest-ever in a knockout WC game. However, he was dismissed for just four runs in the final which India lost to Australia.
However after it, Iyer had a disappointing Test outing in South Africa. He warmed up for the next Test challenge against England at home from January to March by playing a Ranji Trophy match, but he was dropped from the remaining three Tests after poor scores in first two Tests. He then missed the Ranji quarters due to back spasm, despite the Board of Control for Cricket in India’s (BCCI)’s directive to not skip it. But he returned for the semifinal and scored 95 runs in the final, but missed a lot of game time during the title clash due to back pain. However, despite playing a crucial role in Mumbai’s 42nd triumph, Iyer’s return to domestic red-ball cricket seemed a little too late as his name was dropped from BCCI’s Central Contract list in February.
Now, coming to the IPL, Iyer has participated in all the games and won acclaim for his leadership, leading KKR into the finals. In 14 matches and 13 innings, Iyer has scored 345 runs at an average of 38.33 and a strike rate of 146.18, with two half-centuries. His best score is 58*, in qualifiers one against SRH.
Speaking ahead of the final clash, Iyer said during the press conference, “I was definitely struggling after the World Cup in the longer format (with back issues). When I raised my concern, no one was agreeing to it.”
“But at the same time the competition is with myself. When the IPL was approaching all I wanted to see was that I have put my best foot forward and whatever planning and strategising we [KKR] did before it, basically if we could execute it to the best of our abilities, we would have been in a great spot – and that is where we are right now,” he added.
Former Indian cricketer Gautam Gambhir, who led KKR to two titles back in 2012 and 2014, returned as a mentor for this year’s tournament for the Knights after two underwhelming seasons spent near the bottom of the points table.
Talking about Gambhir’s return to the franchise, Iyer said hilariously, “The hype is definitely created by you guys (about Gambhir’s return).”
He also lauded Gambhir’s “immense knowledge of the game”. “His strategies have been spot on in terms of what we have to execute against our opponents. He adds a lot of cream to the team and hopefully we continue the same momentum in the final,” he added.
Talking about his preparations for the IPL, Iyer said that transitioning from red-ball cricket to the white-ball cricket after the Ranji Trophy final was difficult both for batters and bowlers.
“It was kind of difficult at the start but once you get used to it, I think you pick up the pace and march on with the other players,” he added.
Iyer said that KKR being two-time champions and one time runners-up does not give them any advantage over SRH being a one-time champion and two-time runners-up.
“It is on skill and mindset tomorrow. The best team is going to win,” he added.
On the playing surface, the wicket is different from what it was yesterday during the qualifier two between SRH and Rajasthan Royals (RR), said Iyer.
“It is red soil, yesterday it was black. Looking through TV, we thought dew was going to play a role, but it did not the ball started spinning,” he concluded.
Kolkata Knight Riders Squad: Rahmanullah Gurbaz(w), Sunil Narine, Venkatesh Iyer, Shreyas Iyer (c), Rinku Singh, Andre Russell, Ramandeep Singh, Mitchell Starc, Vaibhav Arora, Harshit Rana, Varun Chakaravarthy, Anukul Roy, Manish Pandey, Nitish Rana, Srikar Bharat, Sherfane Rutherford, Dushmantha Chameera, Chetan Sakariya, Angkrish Raghuvanshi, Sakib Hussain, Suyash Sharma, Allah Ghazanfar
Sunrisers Hyderabad Squad: Travis Head, Abhishek Sharma, Rahul Tripathi, Aiden Markram, Nitish Reddy, Heinrich Klaasen(w), Abdul Samad, Pat Cummins(c), Bhuvneshwar Kumar, T Natarajan, Jaydev Unadkat, Shahbaz Ahmed, Umran Malik, Sanvir Singh, Glenn Phillips, Mayank Markande, Mayank Agarwal, Washington Sundar, Anmolpreet Singh, Upendra Yadav, Jhatavedh Subramanyan, Vijayakanth Viyaskanth, Fazalhaq Farooqi, Marco Jansen, Akash Maharaj Singh. (ANI)

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