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Deodhar Trophy final showcases India's batting riches

On a pitch that was by no means perfect for batting, centuries from Ishan Kishan and Shreyas Iyer provided evidence of the talent that exists just below the regular India players

Sidharth Monga
Sidharth Monga
Shreyas Iyer raises his bat as he gets to fifty  •  PTI

Shreyas Iyer raises his bat as he gets to fifty  •  PTI

On a day when a healthy Saturday crowd was treated to 675 runs, with some incredible fearless hitting and 29 sixes on a pitch that has not been the best, the nicest touch came in a quiet movement between overs.
Shreyas Iyer, whose 148 would fall just short of overhauling 352 set by India C, had just reached his hundred with a nonchalant loft back down the ground and was catching his breath when Shubman Gill, who had scored a superlative hundred in a chase the other day, approached him. They quietly knocked fists and went back to doing what they were doing. This was not a moment for the cameras. It was a brief thing. It was between two exciting young batsmen, who were competitors not just in these assembled teams but also for the rare vacancies in the India line-up, appreciating each other in the middle of the contest.
Iyer went back to try and get the runs for India B, Gill went back to try and get him out. It was not all goodwill, though. When Iyer eventually fell for 148, so close to the target - leaving the last three wickets to get 44 in 42 balls - the competitive juices spilled over. Rahul Chahar, the legspinner who dismissed him after being hit for two sixes in the over, gave Iyer a send-off, and Iyer gave back as good as he got. The fielders prevented it from getting any uglier.
Half an hour later, sitting for the press conference, Iyer saw some of the camaraderie return. If he had shown composure in chase, it was Ishan Kishan who had, earlier in the morning, played the innings of the day. Scratchy on a pitch tacky with the morning moisture, Kishan had once been 6 off 31 balls, survived an lbw call because of a no-ball, and then turned it around sensationally to bring up his hundred well before the 30th over. What do they say about doubling your 30-over score? That double looked well on as he had accelerated quite effortlessly, scoring more than a hundred runs in 56 balls, but the innings was cut short by an ordinary lbw decision.
As Iyer sat down to answer questions, Kishan joined the listeners, standing behind Iyer, finding what he said amusing. And Iyer had eyes at the back of his head. When he was talking of some great batting there, the 144 from Ajinkya Rahane had to be followed by a mention of Kishan. Iyer didn't quite say it, but just looked back. There was this acknowledgement there from both of them.
Iyer spoke about the camaraderie between these highly talented players outside the international scene. "When we go in the India A team, all of us have performed in the domestic circuit," Iyer said. "Our main aim is to enjoy each other's success. That's what we are focusing on currently as well. When he [Kishan] came after batting, all of us were really happy he had got a hundred. We help each other out. We always remain happy."
This camaraderie has taught Iyer a thing or two. He has some crazy numbers in the Ranji Trophy, he is his IPL team's captain, and he can be nigh unstoppable on his day, but such is the competition one level higher than his that he has not yet been able to nail a spot in any India team. He is back in the T20I side now, but he has in the past admitted to feeling frustrated. He says that he has stopped thinking of that now, and these other batsmen around him have helped him do so.
"I have realised that it is not only me but many other players like me who are not selected," Iyer said. "So I can see their frustration as well at the same time. And yeah, I think it's just part and parcel of every sportsman's life. It is not just cricket. Football too. You see them break down. I saw many footballers not selected for their World Cup side even though they have performed really well for their clubs and other teams."
The case is the same with Kishan, who is a mean hitter of spinners. In this game, too, he said he knew the day was his once he had lasted until spin came on. He scored 92 off 51 balls against spin after that slow start. After all he once scored almost a hundred in a session of first-class cricket on a raging turner against Ravindra Jadeja, Kamlesh Makwana and Dharmendrasinh Jadeja. Like Rishabh Pant, he is not a very good wicketkeeper, but can be just as explosive with the bat on his day. He lost the gloves to Pant in the Under-19 World Cup because he is a better fielder. He has lost out to Pant in the race to international cricket, but there is no grudge, just an acknowledgement that Pant has scored more runs than him.
There was a year in the 1990s when Australia's sponsors were not happy with the competition they had for the annual tri-series. They drafted in an Australia A side, which ended up making the final and gave the international side a tough fight. With the audacity and quality and match temperament seen in the Deodhar Trophy over the last week, you could think of putting together a similar batting group in limited-overs cricket.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo