Suryakumar Yadav, Ravindra Jadeja, Hardik Pandya come to the party in time for T20 World Cup... albeit just | Crickit

Suryakumar Yadav, Ravindra Jadeja, Hardik Pandya come to the party in time for T20 World Cup... albeit just

May 07, 2024 01:21 PM IST

Suryakumar Yadav, Ravindra Jadeja, Hardik Pandya seem to have hit form ahead of India's T20 World Cup campaign.

When India’s national selectors named the 15 for next month’s T20 World Cup exactly a week back, it was met largely with the acknowledgement that, given the circumstances, they had picked the best possible squad. There was, however, a lingering feeling that many in that party had yet to hit their straps; pedigree and reputation are excellent back-ups, but form is essential too, especially heading into the showpiece event of the cricketing year.

Suryakumar Yadav, Ravindra Jadeja and Hardik Pandya are peaking at the right time(AFP-ANI)
Suryakumar Yadav, Ravindra Jadeja and Hardik Pandya are peaking at the right time(AFP-ANI)

Only skipper Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Jasprit Bumrah, Yuzvendra Chahal and Shivam Dube had, at the time, showcased consistency in performance. The rest had displayed sporadic flashes of brilliance, but it was clear that they were still some way short of their best. It wasn’t necessarily a matter of concern, but how nice it would be if they could carry some momentum and confidence into the big bash, right?

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Over the last few days, the mood in the country has lifted somewhat with more and more of the World Cup squad shedding lean trots and putting their hand up. While Rohit, Chahal and Dube have suffered a dip in form, understandable given the fluid and dynamic nature of the T20 game in general and the IPL in particular with its travel and recovery demands, Kohli and Bumrah have continued to flourish.

It is from the return to match-winning avatars of many others that stems the optimism that India won’t be merely paper tigers when the tournament begins in the United States in three and a half weeks’ time. Several key cogs of the wheel are beginning to rediscover their mojo, none more breathtakingly than Suryakumar Yadav, the world’s No. 1 T20 batter.

Suryakumar missed Mumbai Indians’ first two matches of what has been a dreadful campaign after undergoing surgery for a sports hernia. His comeback game produced a second-ball duck, and even though he backed it up with a typically exuberant half-century, he seldom put two good innings together.

On Monday night at the Wankhede Stadium, against a versatile Sunrisers Hyderabad bowling group, the best of Suryakumar made a dramatic appearance. The target – 174 – was middling but MI had failed to hunt down 169 at the same venue a couple of nights back, against Kolkata Knight Riders, despite a Suryakumar fifty. When he walked out at No. 4, the chase was in disarray at 31 for two, which became 31 for three in the space of five more deliveries. As much as MI needed Suryakumar to fire for pride, Indian fans willed him to turn the clock back, their eyes already trained on the T20 World Cup.

The effervescent right-hander didn’t disappoint. There were streaky strokes early on as the ball nipped around, but once he got inside the line and whip-flicked the towering Marco Jansen over fine-leg, it was as if a switch had been hit. The Suryakumar of old, fluent and composed and a fraction of a second earlier on the ball than most others, toyed with the bowling; his dominance is evident from the fact that during the unbroken fourth-wicket alliance of 143 that took MI home, Tilak Varma’s contribution was just 37 (off 32). Varma is MI’s leading scorer this season (384, strike-rate 147.12); he was totally shaded with his partner smashing 102 off just 51. Welcome back, SKY, do we say?

Suryakumar’s pyrotechnics came on the back of a tidy spell from Hardik Pandya, crucial to India’s fortunes in his capacity as the designated all-rounder. Pandya has had a horror first season as MI skipper, stumbling from one defeat to another, his decision-making and lack of individual contributions competing for attention of the unwanted variety. Despite his nonchalant exterior, he must have been hurting inside; channeling his angst, he held his own against inarguably the most destructive top order of the competition, three for 31 from four tidy overs indicating that, perhaps, Pandya’s worst days are behind him.

Suryakumar and Pandya are the latest in a series of India’s World Cup-bound players making their presence felt. Ravindra Jadeja, who has had only a decent tournament thus far, turned in a command all-rounder performance for Chennai Super Kings against Punjab Kings on Sunday, less than 24 hours after Mohammed Siraj confirmed that he has shaken off fatigue with two Powerplay wickets on his way to the Player of the Match award during Royal Challengers Bengaluru’s rout of Gujarat Titans in Bengaluru. While Rohit will be mindful of finishing the tournament strongly – he has two more opportunities to do so – he will have taken heart from several of his first-choice personnel coming into their own at the most opportune time. Not least, his MI colleagues Suryakumar and World Cup deputy Pandya.

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