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Asia Cup: Iyer’s injury a big worry for men in blue

Asia Cup: Iyer’s injury a big worry for men in blue

Express News Service

COLOMBO: A ‘forced change’, as India skipper Rohit Sharma termed it at the toss on Sunday afternoon, ahead of their Super Four match of the 2023 Asia Cup against Pakistan could land India in big trouble, especially with the 2023 ODI World Cup at home less than a month away. Marked as the No. 4 batter in the team sheet, Shreyas Iyer was hurriedly made No. 13, the place originally allotted to KL Rahul. The duo swapped places with Iyer going out and Rahul making it to the playing XI as the two captains exchanged team sheets here at the R Premadasa Stadium in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

The Indian Cricket Board (BCCI) later said Iyer had a back spasm during the warm-up session which ruled him out of the match. Though the extent and seriousness of Iyer’s injury were not known, the fresh back injury raises concerns as the Mumbai batter underwent back surgery almost six months ago before making his return to the national fold in the continental tournament.

For the record, before the Asia Cup, Rahul last donned Indian colours in March when he played an ODI against Australia. Iyer’s last stint with the Indian team before the ongoing tournament was a Test match against the same opponents in the same month. After persistent pain, Iyer was then sent for scans on his back on Day 4 of the fourth Test. He had surgery in London next month forcing him to skip the entire IPL season. Rahul, meanwhile, sustained an injury in May during an IPL match. He also underwent a thigh surgery making his return to the team only last month like Iyer.

Interestingly, the duo underwent an extensive rehabilitation programme at the National Cricket Academy (NCA) in Bengaluru before being added first to the Asia Cup squad and then to the World Cup squad. While Rahul’s comeback was delayed due to a fresh niggle as he missed the first two Group A matches, Iyer made an immediate return scoring 14 against Pakistan on September 2 at the Pallekele International Cricket Stadium. He didn’t bat in India’s second match against Nepal but was in the team at No 4 before a back spasm ruled him out of India’s first Super Four match.

The injury that too after a long lay-off and only two matches into his comeback has baffled a few former India players and commentator Sanjay Manjrekar is one among them. “I’m just intrigued by Shreyas Iyer’s fitness if that’s the case. He’s had a long layoff. The big story was that he’s fit now. He looked good in those 20-odd runs he scored against Pakistan. And now he has got a back spasm. You have to start looking at players if there are such issues for captain and team management. We were waiting for him to come back and gave him the first match and the second match. It’s unfortunate, I’m just glad Ishan Kishan is playing,” Manjrekar told the official broadcaster after the toss.

Earlier, Pakistan captain Babar Azam won the toss and invited India to bat expecting his pace battery to unsettle Rohit and Co as they did in the previous match. However, the Indian openers, especially Shubman Gill, scored quick runs to render Shaheen Shah Afridi and Naseem Shah ineffective. Gill completed his fifty off just 37 balls. They then completed the 100-run partnership in just 13.2 overs. Rohit also reached his half-century off just 42 balls. The openers, however, departed in quick succession leaving India at 123/2. Shadab Khan and Shaheen claimed the wickets of Rohit and Gill, respectively. Virat Kohli (8 off 16) and Rahul (17 off 28) then batted cautiously to make sure their team didn’t suffer any further hiccups.

Unfortunately for the duo, when they looked set the sky opened up with India at 147/2 in 24.1 overs. Since then umpires have done three inspections to assess the condition of the surface and outfield but the play was called off just before the fourth inspection was scheduled at 8:30 PM. As the match has a reserve day, the contest will resume at 3 PM on Monday with Kohli and Rahul returning to bat. Going by the weather forecast, there are chances of rain even on Monday with precipitation percentage only increasing from 98 to 99.

Brief scores: India 147/2 in 24.1 overs (Rohit 58, Gill 56) vs Pakistan. (match postponed to reserve day).

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