SKY back in full flow for India

SKY stole the show at the Kensington Oval with his 28-ball 53 knock vs Afghanistan. (PC:

Despite holding the top spot in the T20I rankings for a long time now, which is well-deserved, Suryakumar Yadav has often been labelled as a minnow basher on the big stage. Out of his five half-centuries at the T20 World Cup, four have come against lower-ranked teams such as the Netherlands, USA, Zimbabwe, and Afghanistan. He appeared to be India’s best batter in the last T20 World Cup in Australia. However, when it came to the big game, the semi-final against England, he managed only 14 runs.

Criticism intensified against India’s best T20 batter following a tepid performance in the 50-over World Cup last year. In his third T20 World Cup, after failing to deliver against arch-rivals Pakistan — a game that invariably serves as a litmus test for a player in the eyes of the masses — he faced increased scrutiny. It wasn’t the first time he faltered in a high-pressure match against Pakistan; it had happened twice before. This history of underperforming in high-pressure matches has only amplified the criticisms.

There have been instances in the past where Surya failed to step up when his team needed him the most. But on Thursday, the stylish right-handed batter showed everyone why he is regarded as one of the best in the 20-over format.

On a slow Kensington Oval pitch, against Afghanistan’s quality bowling attack, Surya stepped up. While the conditions weren’t as challenging for batting as they were in New York, they still posed difficulties. It wasn’t a free-flowing start from the outset. The dismissals of Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli underscored the pitch’s slower nature. Rashid Khan, having taken two wickets, was all over India. The first ball Surya faced from Rashid, he swept him for a boundary.

With the leg-spinner bowling well, not many would dare to take him on. But that’s where Surya is different. In Rashid’s next over, the batsman swept him three times, with the ball going to the boundary twice. From that point on, there was no looking back as he disdainfully took on the other Afghanistan bowlers.

The word that is often associated with Surya is improvisation. Few in the world can match his ability to improvise and play unconventional shots. When Azmatullah Omarzai delivered a low full-toss, he shuffled across and effortlessly whipped it to the deep square leg boundary. Just one ball later, facing a full delivery outside off, Surya stood tall and drove it over wide mid-off. Two distinctly different shots for the same line of attack. His knack for manipulating the field and finding gaps with surgical precision evokes the image of a craftsman at work.

“I think there’s a lot of hard work, there are a lot of processes and routines involved in it. I am clear in my mind what I want to do,” said Surya after the Afghanistan game.

Surya now has two half-centuries in the ongoing World Cup. (PC: BCCI)

If that lofted drive over mid-off was a display of elegance, he surpassed it by dispatching Omarzai’s full delivery straight over the bowler’s head for a six. Fazalhaq Farooqi also bore the brunt, conceding a four and a six, which enabled Surya to reach his fifty off 27 deliveries. This marked his 23rd score of 50 or more in T20Is, the fourth-highest by an Indian batsman, and secured his 15th Player of the Match award, joint-most in T20Is.

Before this match, Surya had registered his slowest T20I fifty, against the United States, but given the conditions in New York, his innings proved to be a match-winning effort. It came against an opposition who had toppled Pakistan.

Two back-to-back fifties on two tricky surfaces suggest that Surya has different games for different challenges. And no-one rivals the body of work that Surya has compiled in the sport’s shortest format, particularly the consistency he has upheld over the years. Now is the time for him to score in crunch games and dispel any doubts about his ability to perform under pressure, proving he is more than just a minnow-basher.