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THE RISE OF SKY: SURYAKUMAR YADAV

24 July 2021: Suryakumar Yadav gets his maiden Test call-up for England Test Series. With what little we have seen of Surya in the limited-overs format for India, he seems to be in perfect control of his batting. So, it should not count as a surprise if, in three weeks, we see him join the elite list of players representing India in all three formats of cricket.

  • The first ball faced in international cricket – 6

  • Debut T20I innings – 50

  • The second-ever ODI innings – 50

  • Debut ODI series – Man of the Series

And now, maiden Test cricket call-up. Life seems easy when you are Suryakumar Yadav, right? -WRONG.


As easy as it may seem, the journey of Suryakumar Yadav was nowhere close to a cakewalk. A few months ago, he did not even have an international cap to his name. So far, his professional career has been a tale of two halves- one where he did not get as many opportunities as he would have liked and, other where despite being at the peak of his powers, he was constantly getting ignored by the national selectors. In this editorial, we will be reflecting on both of these halves.


EARLY CAREER:

In 2010, at the age of 20, Suryakumar Yadav made his domestic debut for Mumbai and was already seen as the next big thing averaging a staggering 68.54 in his first-full Ranji Trophy season. He even outscored as well as outshined Mumbai cricket stalwarts like Abhisekh Nayar and Wasim Jaffer. Unfortunately, post the 2011/12 season, his form dipped to a great degree and, he was unable to contribute much to the cause of the Mumbai domestic team.

In 2012, he got bagged by Mumbai Indians. However, he did not get to play many games because of the already rock-solid MI batting line-up. In 2014, Kolkata Knight Riders bought him in the auction and, since then, he was a constant figure in playing 11. His crisp strokeplay towards the death overs made him a much-feared batsman to ball against at the back of the innings.


He even got the position of Vice-Captain of the squad at one point in time. His role was more of a floater who used to finish matches in the death overs, so he hardly got to face a significant number of deliveries to make a glaring impact on the selectors. But all that changed when MI brought back the dynamic batsman into the team ahead of the 2018 IPL edition.


RETURN TO MUMBAI INDIANS:

Finally, after returning to the team where he initially began his IPL journey, he was given the role of a top-order batsman. Since then, there was no looking back for Suryakumar Yadav. With Captain Rohit Sharma’s faith in his abilities and team managements’ constant support, SKY became a force to reckon with in the Indian Premier League.


In the last three years, Mumbai Indians managed to clinch 2 out of the 3 IPL trophies, thanks to the significant contributions of the 30-year-old. In each of the three editions, SKY has averaged above 30 and has a strike rate close to 140. In the last three seasons, he has scored over 400 runs and has scored a total of 11 fifties. It is not about the number of runs he scored, but the mannerism in how he got them and even more importantly, the runs he got in crux matches.


His IPL performances began to reflect in the domestic cricket as well. His strike rate in domestic T20s is now close to 140, and he averages over 30. Also, he has plundered more than 3000 runs in the T20s, with 17 fifties to his tally. Time and again, SKY has proved himself to be a downright match-winner for Mumbai Indians and his domestic side – Mumbai.


A LONG HALTING WAIT:

Despite being in top-notch form for the last four years in IPL and domestic cricket, the 30-year-old Mumbaikar was constantly ignored for selection by BCCI.

“My father always checks all the websites any time an India A team is announced. He calls me as soon as he sees it, and tells me ‘your name is not there’. I tell him ‘that’s not a problem’.” Suryakumar Yadav

But again, all Yadav could have done was continue his merry way of piling runs (that he already did in the plethora of magnitude) and wait patiently for his name to show up in the Indian squad someday. While any other Sportsperson might have got discouraged after continuously being ignored for selection, SKY continued to grind without complaining.


INDIA CALL-UP:

In February 2021, finally, his patience bore the fruit he so handsomely deserved. He was named in India’s Twenty20 International (T20I) squad for the series against England. All his hard work, dedication, prayers, everything began to make sense now. Needless to say, his happiness knew no bounds. On 14 March 2021, Suryakumar finally made his much-awaited international debut for India in the T20I format.


In his debut international match, he did not get the opportunity to bat yet, he impressed one and all with his acrobatic fielding exploits. Finally, in the fourth game of the series, he got his first opportunity to bat, and the way he did, was like a dream. The pressure of playing an international sport for a country with a 1.3 billion population did not budge him one bit. In fact, on the contrary, it only seemed to spur him on.


The first ball he ever faced in international cricket went for a six, making him the first Indian cricketer ever to do so in T20 Internationals. He further went on to score a half-century and the rest, as they say, is history. His game-changing performances at No.3 led him to be described as an “X-Factor” by the skipper, Virat Kohli himself.

The 30-year-old batsman also clinched the Man-of-the-Series award for scoring 124 runs – with the highest score of 53 – in the recently concluded ODI series against the Lankans.

“Obviously, everyone dreams of playing for India. And it has been a lot of effort, grind, a lot of patience behind this. And it has been worth the wait and I am really happy about it,”

Suryakumar Yadav at the virtual post-match press conference about his recent exploits.

“From here on how I build it, it is all in my hands, and I am really excited for the journey ahead.”

A NIGHTMARE FOR BOWLERS:

Perhaps one of the most difficult batsmen to bowl to in IPL and first-class cricket, Suryakumar Yadav, by all means, is a nightmare for almost every style of bowler out there. What makes him this dangerous is the wide variety of shots he possesses in his armory, being a complete 360-degree player. Be it the orthodox cricketing shots or the unorthodox scoops and sweeps, he plays it all.


His trademark is the inside-out over covers that, more often than not, fetches him and his team six more runs. Also, his wristy whip shots in the leg side arena are a sight to behold. An uppercut, scoop shot, reverse scoop, reverse sweep, straight drive, cover drive, anything and everything- you name it, he plays it all equally well.


Suryakumar Yadav features a very novel approach to batting, one that’s different from conventional hitting. He combines hard power with accurate, sensible strokeplay which makes him a potent powerhouse.


With all the hype around him building up, certainly the expectations from him as a cricketer have now skyrocketed. But will he be able to replicate his recent exploits in the longer format of the game and upcoming T20I World Cup? Only time will tell.


Till then, all we can say is SKY is the limit!

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