It's almost as if "short ball" has been written against Shreyas Iyer's name on the strategy board of every opposition.
On Sunday, the first glimpse of it was a burst from Alzarri Joseph. Except, it began after Iyer was set. Still, thrice, he was beaten for pace, once he was late on a shot as the ball brushed his forearm on the way to the wicketkeeper.
Joseph wasn't being subtle about showing his intentions. And Iyer wasn't going to hop and jump. If he were to fall, he would go down fighting. But the understanding Iyer has of his game - and his primary weakness - would suggest that the issue is work in progress, behind the scenes.
Prior to the ODI series, Iyer said that he had worked extra hard at training with Rahul Dravid and batting coach Vikram Rathour, who had to pull him out of the nets. It was Iyer being Iyer - someone who loves to bat and wants to put in the work to refine his game, because opportunities are proving to be scarce.
In England, he got all of one game. When the big guns were back, he was back on the bench. He's back again now, because the seniors have been rested, and so far, his two innings in the Caribbean have brought him two half-centuries in two winning causes.
If his dismissal in the first brought a sense that he had missed a century that was there for the taking, his dismissal on Sunday was slightly unfortunate - out lbw on umpire's call to a delivery that would have only hit the outside of the leg stump. His 99-run stand with Sanju Samson had brought India back into their chase of 311, even though they weren't fully out of choppy waters at 178 for 4 in the 33rd over. It needed an Axar Patel special to complete the job in the final over.
"I was really happy to get what score I got today, but really unhappy with the way I was dismissed," Iyer said later. "I thought I could have taken the team through easily. I was setting up the total, but was very unfortunate with the wicket. Hopefully, I get to score a century in the next game."
"Making half-centuries, I'm fortunate to have got those, but I have to convert it to a hundred. You don't often get these chances in international cricket. Today was a great chance, I felt"
Iyer's ODI numbers are excellent for someone who isn't a certainty yet - 1064 runs in 26 innings at an average of 42.56 and strike rate of 95.51. A shoulder injury last year kept him out for six months, a time during which he slipped down the pecking order after having established himself at No. 4. Now, he's back on the upward curve, even though, since this year's IPL, the short-ball weakness has led to him being found out time and again. Brendon McCullum, from the balcony, gesturing to England's bowlers to bowl at Iyer's throat in the Edgbaston Test was as open a signal as it could get. He had been with Iyer in the Kolkata Knight Riders dressing room, trying to address the same issue, only six weeks prior.
Iyer has worked with a number of coaches over time, but at the senior level, it's his working relationship with Dravid that has possibly been the longest. He first worked with Dravid in 2015, the year he broke into the IPL at Delhi Daredevils [now Delhi Capitals]. The partnership extended to India A and the several tours he was a part of over the years.
"Obviously, whatever hard work you do has to be off the field," Iyer said, of his work against the short ball. "What you see here is only the reward. I love working hard. I've been working very hard lately. The wickets and conditions change, matches keep coming back to back. You have to be fit, you have to motivate yourself. My mindset is that I will control the controllable, only then I can execute.
"I have been working with them [Dravid and Rathour] for many years. We talk technique and temperament on a match-to-match basis. Situations change. When we have team meetings, everyone talks. We don't come to a conclusion but learn from each other's views. It's a good conversation between us. Rahul sir has been supportive throughout, he doesn't put much pressure on the mind."
Iyer loves batting at No. 3. The "I will bat wherever the team asks me to" cliche is not his. He just wants to make the most of every opportunity he gets at the moment, instead of worrying about his batting position or why he isn't getting picked. And he wants to convert his scores into big ones instead of being happy with half-centuries.
"No. 3 is one of the best positions in ODIs," he said. "You go in at a tough situation if the openers have fallen. Then you have to see off the new ball and build an innings. But if the openers have started well, you get to carry forward the momentum and ensure the run rate is maintained. It's a fun position to bat at and I really enjoy it.
"Making half-centuries, I'm fortunate to have got those, but I have to convert it to a hundred. You don't often get these chances in international cricket. Today was a great chance, I felt. In the previous match, I was out to a good catch. I won't say I threw my wicket away there. But as long as the team wins and you contribute, you feel good.
"Playing in the team is not in my hands. What I can do is train hard off the field. When I leave the field, I have no regrets."