T20 Thrills will Define Suryakumar Yadav; not World Cup Failure

Indian captain Suryakumar Yadav during his quick ton on Thursday night. (Source X)

Yesterday evening I had dinner with the “Beast” of Indian and world badminton, HS Prannoy. And in fact I asked him who gave him the nickname the ‘Beast’? Prannoy, who is completely the opposite of his on court persona when you meet him socially, laughed and said he needs to ask this question on social media and find out. The South African bowlers, however, would not have such a problem. For them, SKY is the new Beast. 100 of 56 deliveries as skipper, Surya had almost batted South Africa out of the game and made sure that the series ended all square at 1-1 last night in JoBurg.

Before going into Surya’s innings, let me digress a little here. I am conscious what the trolls will say. That he wasn’t able to do so in the World Cup final. True. But is it always that a 100 metre sprinter runs the 800 metre race as well? The answer is No. Surya, let’s accept, is the best T-20 batter India has had. Not a great 50 over player but a T-20 specialist with incredible skill and ability. And yet again it was all on show last night in the Bullring. 

At one point Surya was 26 of 24 balls. Jaiswal was the early aggressor and India was going at 8.7 an over after 10. But then greatness is all about changing gears. About taking control and asserting dominance. The 13th over defined Surya’s innings. Andile Phehlukwayo was the hapless victim of this brutal assault. 3 sixes and a boundary and Surya was in the last 30 metres of his 100 m sprint. Much like Usain Bolt. Not the best start but once he was in rhythm, he would go past rivals in a jiffy. And then look back in celebration. The same with Surya. From the 13th over on, there was no stopping him. Chewing at gum, Viv Richards style, it was a T-20 batting masterclass that can make its way into any handbook going forward. Not surprising that almost all the South African players congratulated him after he was dismissed for a 100 and the crowd with a lot of blue as always gave him a standing ovation. 

A 50 and a 100 in the two games he batted as skipper, Surya has now given the selectors a real option. With Rohit not sure of playing the format just yet and Hardik on his way back still, India now has a skipper who can lead without the pressures of captaincy impacting his batting. That’s a huge takeaway for the Indian selectors ahead of the world T-20. 

For the last month or so Surya wasn’t himself. No one could have hurt more after the World Cup final failure and knowing him well it can be said that Surya will forever find it hard to move past the final. Was it fear of failure? The pressure of expectations? Restlessness? 

It is classic sport. It tests you however good you are. And if you are a true devotee, you will sure find a way out.

None of this is new. Sport, as Abhinav Bindra says, teaches you to lose. In sport you will always lose more than you will win. Sachin Tendulkar was the greatest to play the sport. He scored 50 hundreds in 200 Tests. Simply put he did not score a 100 in 150 Test matches. That’s sport. Real, not reel. No retakes. 

In sport you always fail in public. In front of millions. Just like Sachin did in 2007 when he was bowled in the match against Sri Lanka for a duck. He wanted to retire. Give it all up. Thankfully he did not. Sir Viv’s call made a difference. He came back, with his support system around him backing him up, and won the World Cup in 2011. And yes, in public, in front of millions watching.

That’s why sport is unique. The only thing that allows you to fail in public and then come back and win in public. Surya will as well. He is a champion of the shortest format and in just 6 months from now he will have a World Cup that suits him the best. That World Cup, he will start to believe, is what will define him. The comeback. To win it for India. His own fans. And this is when the fans need to stand by him. Don’t just say he wasn’t able to in Australia in November 2022 for sport is all about trying and getting better. Sachin waited for 22 years for a World Cup. June 2024 could well be Surya’s tournament if current form is anything to go by. 

The journey is never over in sport. After an Ahmedabad, there is always a Joburg. That’s how sport always is. Surya will know that things change and change is the only constant always. For a true devotee, it has to happen. And will. 

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