Injured Shreyas Iyer doubtful starter for at least first half of IPL 2023

Iyer has told BCCI medical staff that he wants to explore other options for his back issues before taking a final call on surgery

Nagraj Gollapudi
Shreyas Iyer warms up, Delhi Capitals vs Kolkata Knight Riders, IPL 2022, Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai, April 28, 2022

Kolkata Knight Riders hope for Shreyas Iyer to be back before the halfway stage of IPL 2023  •  BCCI

Kolkata Knight Riders captain Shreyas Iyer is a doubtful starter for at least the first half of IPL 2023. ESPNcricinfo has learned that while Iyer has opted out of surgery for a recurring lower-back injury, he has been advised rest as he continues his rehab. The injury had initially forced him to abort his participation from the final Test of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy before ruling him out of the ODI series against Australia.
It is understood that there is no definitive date of return earmarked for Iyer, who will continue to be supervised by the BCCI's medical staff at the National Cricket Academy in Bengaluru through the near future. Knight Riders, though, have not given up hope, and expect their captain to be back before the halfway stage of the IPL.
Iyer's issues, it is learned, concern a bulge in one of the discs in his spine, which has resulted in an impinged nerve. The nerve runs along the right leg and has caused shooting pain in Iyer's calf, which is compounded by mobility issues. It is understood that Iyer has been given six injections in the recent past to help numb the pain in his back.
Iyer, 28, first experienced discomfort in his lower back last December, immediately after the Bangladesh tour. He then missed out on selection for the ODI series against New Zealand at home and the first Test against Australia.
He returned to play the second and third Tests of the Australia series. However, the back pain re-emerged during the final Test in Ahmedabad, where having fielded for the first two days, Iyer did not turn out to bat in India's only innings in the match.
After returning home, Iyer consulted a spine surgeon in Mumbai. He was presented with two options: rest, rehab and wait for the pain to subside before resuming strength and conditioning and mobility exercises. If that doesn't work, then move to the second option: surgery. It is understood that the BCCI medical staff even consulted a London-based specialist, who had carried out Hardik Pandya's back surgery, for a second opinion. The London expert, too, advised to stick the first option.
Iyer has told the BCCI medical staff that he wants to explore options before taking the final call on surgery. He has also received full support from the Knight Riders management who helped him consult an Ayurveda specialist for a non-intrusive alternative medicine.

Who can be KKR's interim captain?

The Knight Riders management has started discussing options for the stand-in captain Iyer's absence. Sunil Narine and Nitish Rana are understood to be among the frontrunners but Knight Riders are deliberating hard on who could be a better choice as an overall package: man-manger, good communicator, leading team-mates and getting the best out of them under pressure in a match situation.
Narine, Knight Riders' best player since he joined the franchise in 2012, led Abu Dhabi Knight Riders recently in the inaugural season of the ILT20 in the UAE. It was a testing run for Narine the captain with a single win and eight defeats as Knight Riders finished bottom of the table in the six-team tournament.
Rana has led Delhi in 12 T20s in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, with eight wins and four defeats.

Nagraj Gollapudi is news editor at ESPNcricinfo