Suryakumar Yadav rises above setbacks to underline T20 supremacy | Crickit
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Suryakumar Yadav rises above setbacks to underline T20 supremacy

Jun 21, 2024 07:53 PM IST

Doubts may persist about his credentials in 50-over cricket, but there’s no disputing his status as the top T20 batter in the world

If you look at Suryakumar Yadav purely through the prism of T20 World Cups, the 2024 edition seems to be a continuation of his confidence-brimming campaign in 2022. Still the world’s No.1 batter as per the T20 rankings, he is playing shots just as jaw-dropping as the ones he did in Australia two years ago. But in between these two events, a couple of things have happened that will count as setbacks.

India's Suryakumar Yadav celebrates his half-century during the Super 8 Group 1 match against Afghanistan in the ICC Mens T20 World Cup (Surjeet Yadav)
India's Suryakumar Yadav celebrates his half-century during the Super 8 Group 1 match against Afghanistan in the ICC Mens T20 World Cup (Surjeet Yadav)

Foremost is the 33-year-old’s inability to impose himself in the same manner in the 50-over format. It’s hard to pinpoint a reason for that to be the case, for all the shots that he unfurls with oomph in the shortest version should work in ODIs too. But he hasn’t been able to find the right template to be deemed a success batting lower down the order in 50-over cricket. In 37 ODI appearances for India, he has scored only 773 runs at an average of 25.76 with four fifties.

The Mumbai batter has admitted in the past to his failings in this format. “It’s a challenging format for me — if you lose early wickets, you have to take your time like in a Test; it is only at the end that you approach it like a T20,” he had said in August 2023. “If I am honest with myself, my numbers in ODIs are really bad. And there’s no shame in admitting that; everyone knows that already. You need to be honest with yourself.”

Suryakumar had an opportunity to improve his numbers at last year’s ODI World Cup. While he didn’t start the tournament in the playing eleven, he made his way into the team after Hardik Pandya went down with an ankle injury in the fourth group game against Bangladesh. But he couldn’t douse the criticism, the tournament culminating with Suryakumar labouring to a 28-ball 18 against Australia in the final. He wasn’t picked for India’s ODI series against South Africa subsequently.

The other setback has been his injuries. He suffered an ankle injury during the T20I series against South Africa last December, following which he had to undergo a surgery. Prospects of returning to action were further delayed because he had to undergo another surgery in January, this time on his groin for a sports hernia issue that had worsened over time.

It was only after Mumbai Indians lost their first three games in this year’s IPL that he returned. And it was evident through most of MI’s downbeat campaign that there was a hint of rustiness in his batting that had to be shaken off.

The knock against Afghanistan suggests he has done that. He had a slow start to the marquee event, not helped by the pitches that the Indian team was playing on in New York. But in his unbeaten half-century against USA last week, an innings that began with him copping a blow on his right thumb, signs of the man from Mumbai rediscovering his rhythm were apparent.

On Thursday, not for the first time, he illustrated why he is India’s best T20 batter by taking down the best bowler in the opposition, Rashid Khan. Of the six balls that the ace leggie bowled to India’s No.4, 16 runs were scored. To put Suryakumar’s supremacy into context, Rashid bowled 18 deliveries to the other Indian batters for just 10 runs and took three wickets.

It’s not always straightforward to hit Rashid down the ground given the pace he bowls at. So, Suryakumar, adept at playing a variety of sweeps, decided to repeatedly pepper the square boundary on the leg side.

“I'm very clear about what to do when I go out,” he said at the post-match presentation. “When Rashid bowls, it’s very difficult to pick him. I know what shots to play when I am inside. He’s the best bowler in the world, you can’t let him dominate. You have to be a step ahead.”

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