New Delhi: With 16 months left for the World Cup, India have a couple of middle-order slots still up for grabs and Shreyas Iyer sees this as an "opportunity", as he tries to make a case for himself in the coming days.
Iyer is seen as one of the contenders for either No 4 or 5 position in the ODI line-up and will be competing with the likes of Ajinkya Rahane, Kedar Jadhav, Dinesh Karthik and possibly Suresh Raina.
The 23-year-old Mumbaikar though, is not at all tensed.
"Competition for a batting slot has never worried me. I would say it always brings the best out of me. For me, battling for a slot is not a threat but an opportunity," Iyer told PTI after coming back from the South Africa tour.
"Also, I should only be looking at improving my game and not think about who are my competitors," said Iyer, who scored 18 and 30 in the fourth and fifth ODIs respectively.
While he has had a successful 'A' tour of South Africa, travelling with the senior team has been a different experience for the talented right-hander.
"The two games that I batted, I found the pitches to be much quicker than what I played on during the A tour last year. The pitches in Pretoria during A tour was not as quick as these ones.
"It was a learning experience. And don't forget the pressure of playing to packed houses.
Well, I have had experience of packed houses in IPL but this was international cricket."
On the challenges of playing in top flight, Iyer, who has 210 runs from six ODIs including two half-centuries, added, "Anyone who says that he doesn't feel the pressure of international cricket would be lying."
While the process of preparation — whether playing a Ranji Trophy game for Bengal or an international match — has remained the same, Iyer, like all others, can only marvel at skipper Virat Kohli going through the paces.
"He (Kohli) has set a different benchmark for all of us with his meticulousness. It's a lesson that we all must learn about workload management on and off the field. He is precise in his preparation, not a single thing is ever taken lightly," he said.
So what's the tip he got from Kohli while batting together.
"I have got an opportunity to bat alongside him in a match situation only once and his advice is simple. If you want to play a certain shot, have the confidence to back yourself but don't take unnecessary risk when it's not required.
"And the most important piece of batting advice from the skipper — when you are aiming to hit lofted shots, try and hit as straight as possible."
He is new to international cricket and this ODI series has given him some insights on areas which he needs to improve.
"I think I need to improve my technique while playing the hook and pull shots on bouncy wickets. I will be working on my back and across movement (footwork for horizontal bat shots) with my coach Praveen Amre this season," Iyer said.
"I also intend to improve my bowling. If I could chip in with a few overs of my handy off spin, I could add another dimension to my game," said Iyer, who would be competing primarily with Maharashtra veteran Kedar Jadhav for a slot in the middle-order.
He has been retained by Delhi Daredevils and is looking forward to working with Ricky Ponting.
"It will be a great opportunity to interact on batting with someone of Ricky Ponting's stature. He has an IPL Trophy both as a player and coach. His inputs will be invaluable," concluded Iyer.
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The youngster, who rose to prominence after his successful stint with IPL team Chennai Super Kings, said he is looking to reconnect with Rahul Dravid, who would be head coach of the team. Dravid has, in the past, coached the Indian under-19 and A teams.
Now in charge of the National Cricket Academy, Dravid has played a key role in producing the next generation of cricketers and a reserve pool which is the envy of India's opponents.
The WTC final against New Zealand will be held from 18-22 June at the Ageas Bowl in Southampton and the members of the Indian squad will disperse for close to three weeks (20 days) before regrouping on 14 July.