Team India enjoyed a prolific 70-run victory against New Zealand on Wednesday, thus securing a berth in the final of the 2023 World Cup. Dominating the grand stage, India put out a solid batting effort, posting the highest score in a World Cup knock-out match – 397/4 – before bowling the Kiwis out in 48.5 overs in Mumbai. While India’s star batter Virat Kohli smashed his record-breaking 50th ODI century in the most poetic fashion – in front of his idol and previous record-holder Sachin Tendulkar, Shreyas Iyer also hit a 67-ball hundred, propelling India to a mammoth score after the side opted to bat.
Iyer had faced significant criticism over his failure to convert starts at the start of the tournament; he recorded a duck in the side’s opening match against Australia, and following two unbeaten scores of 25 and 53, Iyer endured twin disappointments again, scoring just 19, 33, and 4 off the next three matches against Bangladesh, New Zealand, and England respectively. Iyer’s struggles against short-pitched deliveries were, in particular, a concern for many fans and former cricketers alike.
However, the India no.4 responded to his critics in style, smashing 50+ scores in all four matches since. He hit a pressure-releasing 82 against Sri Lanka, missed his century in a 77 against high-flying South Africa, and then scored two-successive tons in games with Netherlands and New Zealand. Following his match-winning knock in the semi-final, Iyer, in a chat with broadcasters Star Sports, admitted that he was “angry” at the criticism he faced during the initial phase of the tournament.
“I didn’t perform good in 1-2 matches at the start of the World Cup. I was getting the starts, but wasn’t able to convert them into big ones. But if you look at it (the stats), I was not out against Afghanistan and Pakistan, and then I had two bad innings. Then, people started saying that he has a problem. Inside, I was very angry, I was not showing it but I knew my time would come and then I’d prove myself. And it has come now, at the right time,” Iyer said.
Iyer had made his comeback from injury in the Asia Cup in September, but was forced to sidelines again after back spasms ahead of the encounter against Pakistan. He didn’t take part in the rest of the tournament but made a return to the XI in the side’s final bilateral series before the World Cup against Australia, where he smashed a century.