Suryakumar Yadav – The willow-wielder who strikes at 200 in third gear

Suryakumar Yadav for MI
Suryakumar Yadav for MI (PC: X). The batter was in explosive form v SRH

A pick-up shot here, a flick there, a few trademark scoops and then the loft. With Suryakumar Yadav, there are very few areas of the field where you feel a bowler can escape punishment. We caught a sight of the explosion of fireworks from his bat in the game against Sunrisers Hyderabad as he cracked a superlative 51-ball 102. 

Suryakumar, who returned from an injury during the initial phase of the ongoing IPL, has had his share of low scores in this tournament. Perhaps the fifty in tricky conditions for batting versus Kolkata Knight Riders boosted Suryakumar’s confidence. Whatever it was, the experienced Mumbai Indians batter needed that one game-breaking innings ahead of the T20 World Cup. And he produced it on a typical humid night at the Wankhede. 

It wasn’t exactly a breeze for Suryakumar. In the 6th over of MI’s innings, he had to face the gauntlet of Pat Cummins hitting the deck hard and extracting seam movement off the pitch. Incidentally, the SRH skipper also got a few to whistle past the edge of Suryakumar’s bat. In Cummins’ next over, he could only eke out a leading edge via his attempted pick-up stroke. Fortunately for him, the ball flew away over the third man region. 

Suryakumar was looking for a spark to ignite his array of strokes and that came in the seventh over bowled by Marco Jansen. At the start of that over, he was on 11 off 9 deliveries. He had blazed away to 32 off 14 by the end of it. In a matter of a few deliveries, Suryakumar had transformed into his true self. He finished things in style too, by clubbing SRH’s two best seamers, T Natarajan and Cummins – his tormentor early on in the innings – for two sixes and two fours.

There was something else that caught the eye during the course of his sparkling innings – A couple of lofted strokes downtown. Critics always point to the fact that pace bowlers can restrict his scoring areas by forcing him to target straighter boundaries. In that context, those shots indicated that Suryakumar was feeling in good batting rhythm. 

As with Rajinikanth’s movies, watching Suryakumar wield the willow in T20 cricket often requires a willing suspension of disbelief. On Monday, his batting seemed to be only in third gear, and didn’t touch the towering heights that you expect from his mastery of the willow. Even then, he compiled a hundred at a strike-rate of 200. That stat alone tells you something about Suryakumar making the impossible possible in the shortest format.