What Suryakumar Yadav has managed to do in these 17 months in the shortest format would definitely have been one of his own biggest fantasies when he was hoping against hope that he would be picked for the Indian national team. After all, that wait was a very long one.
Suryakumar made his First Class and List A debuts for Mumbai in 2010.
His First Class debut was in a Ranji Trophy match in December 2010 vs Delhi in Delhi. Batting at number six, right after Rohit Sharma, he scored 73 off 89 balls with 15 fours, in Mumbai’s first innings. He was sent back thanks to a catch taken by Virat Kohli off the bowling of Pradeep Sangwan. In the second innings he managed to make just 7.
But those who spot talent had already realised what he was capable of. After all this was just over 10 months after his List A debut for Mumbai. In that debut game he had scored a 35 ball 41, with five fours. Mumbai won that game by 78 runs.
In his first full season for Mumbai (2011-12), Suryakumar topped the run charts for Mumbai in the Ranji Trophy.
With time the legend of SKY grew in India’s domestic circles.
In the 2011 season the Mumbai Indians IPL franchise signed Suryakumar at a time when he had played just one First Class match. In 2014, the Kolkata Knight Riders brought him on board. Eventually he rose to the position of vice-captain for KKR, under Gautam Gambhir’s captaincy.
He did see ups and downs in his domestic career and in the IPL, but those who saw him from close quarters knew what he was capable of. When KKR released him ahead of IPL 2018, Gambhir had said that it was a big mistake.
“From KKR’s point of view, this has to be KKR’s biggest loss, letting go of Suryakumar Yadav…He is someone whom we groomed for four years and then let him go and now he is at the peak of his career…(Because) We couldn’t give him that position (number 3), he was not able to get those 400-500 runs in a season, batting at No. 7….Someone’s loss is someone else’s massive gain. And that is exactly what happened with Mumbai Indians. KKR let go of him and now he has become a mainstay of MI’s batting line-up,” Gambhir had told IPL host broadcaster Star Sports at that time.
In IPL 2018, Surya scored over 500 runs. Most experts who follow the sport felt he should have got the India call-up sooner. In IPLs 2019 and 2020 he scored 424 and 480 runs respectively.
He was compared to Mr. Cricket Michael Hussey by some – who also had to wait a long time before making the cut for the national team. Hussey was three and a half months shy of his 29th birthday when he made his ODI debut and 30 when he played his first Test for Australia. He too had to wait over a decade after making his First Class debut in the 1994-95 season, to get his first Australia cap.
Last year, having firmly established himself as one of the best shorter format batters in the country, Surya was handed his international debuts in both the ODI and T20I formats.
Not surprisingly, the T20I debut came before the ODI, in a home series. He played a match for Team India for the first time in the shortest format against England in Ahmedabad on March 14, 2021, but he didn’t get to bat in his debut game. He batted for the first time in an international match in the second T20I vs England in Ahmedabad on March 18 and scored 57 off 31 deliveries faced.
From then to now – in a very short period of time – Suryakumar has emerged as India’s number one T20I batter. His ability to play shots around the ground has already seen people compare him to the legendary AB de Villiers, as India’s very own Mr. 360. There are very deliveries that Surya can’t shape into a boundary ball. Drives, pulls, hooks, cuts, sweeps, inside out shots, scoops – he can play it all. And perhaps the best part about his batting is that it doesn’t take too long for his engine to warm up. A T20I career strike rate of 177.51 is testament to that.
On Wednesday, vs Hong Kong in the Asia Cup, Surya showed once again just what he is capable of – smashing an incredible unbeaten 68 off just 26 deliveries. His whirlwind knock was studded with 6 fours and 6 sixes and helped him walk away with the Man of the Match award.
It was a knock that made everyone sit up and applaud his incredible talent again and also made Virat Kohli, who batted with him in that match for 7 overs bow to him.
Should we bow?Y̶e̶s̶,̶ ̶h̶e̶’̶s̶ ̶a̶ ̶k̶i̶n̶g̶ Yes, the King himself does!DP World #AsiaCup2022 #BelieveInBlue… https://t.co/6wSUfOY6hq
— Star Sports (@StarSportsIndia) 1661966390000
It’s incredible to see Surya almost continually outshine everyone else in the shortest format. If you take out the list of the highest career strike rates in T20I cricket for all players – you will find Suryakumar Yadav currently on the very top of the pile.
That Surya is India’s number one T20I batter currently is something that is also backed by cold hard statistics.
From his T20I debut on March 14, 2021 to now, the 31 year old from Mumbai is the leading run-getter for India in the shortest format in international cricket.
In the 23 T20I innings he has played since his India debut, Surya has scored 758 runs at an average of almost 40 and a strike rate of just under 178. He also has 6 half centuries and one century already under his belt in T20I cricket. He is ahead of the likes of Rohit Sharma, Ishan Kishan, Shreyas Iyer, Virat Kohli and Hardik Pandya on the list of most runs for India in T20I cricket, since his debut.
In the year 2022 also, Surya leads the Indian pack in T20Is. This year, so far, he has scored 514 runs in 14 innings, at an average of almost 43 and a strike rate of over 190, with one century and three fifties. His highest score in T20I cricket so far is a 117*, smashed against England in Nottingham in July this year. It was a match that India lost, but Surya’s pyrotechnics showed just how destructive a T20 batter he has become.
Age is often just a number for many elite athletes. Suryakumar has worked not just on the versatility aspect of his game but also his fitness and at 31 is at the peak of his powers.
There is still some talk about what the best batting position for Surya is – When Rohit, KL and Virat are in the team, he bats at number 4, like in the ongoing Asia Cup. But for the Mumbai Indians his preferred position decided by the team management is number 3 – which gives him the best possible chance to build his innings and then go hammer and tongs at the bowling.
After the match vs Hong Kong Suryakumar said – “I am flexible to bat at any number, wherever you tell me. I have told the coach and captain to send me at any number, but just play me”.
The desperation, evident from his words, is natural. After all he had to wait an eternity to finally make the India team cut and now he wants to hold on tight. But the way he is going, he can probably relax a little. As things stand, nobody in their wildest dreams will even think of dropping him from the team.
The upcoming World Cup in Australia and a shot at T20I immortality beckons Suryakumar Yadav.