'Virat Told me to Express Myself': Suryakumar Yadav's Firepower Hands India Ticket to Asia Cup Super 4

After his spectacular hitting against Hong Kong in India’s second Asia Cup Twenty20 tournament match at the Dubai International Stadium on Wednesday (August 31), Suryakumar Yadav said he has not had enough matches under his belt in comparison with giants in the team like Virat Kohli with whom he rollicked in the backend of the innings to post a match-winning total of 192.

The Mumbai right-hander, who has often been seen in explosive action, and who will be 32 on September 14, was only stating the fact. He has played only 25 matches after he made his T20I debut for the men in blues against England at Ahmedabad in March 2021. He has not featured in 13 matches after his debut for various reasons and in these matches, India’s winning percentage is 46. 15, while whenever he has played, India has won 22 matches for a winning percentage of 80, a remarkable feat for a batsman who languished in the side-lines of Indian cricket for many years. But he has not let go of the opportunities since he was handed the T20 cap when India played a full series against England in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic.

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When Yadav arrives in the middle of the action and when the situation is trickily placed for India, the fans are riveted and expect him to play a brave and bold knock, which is what he did soon after the fall of KL Rahul. The Karnataka batsman is still trying to find his feet after a groin injury-related surgery and his inability to lift the scoring rate did not help India’s cause after being put to bat. Yadav changed all that in a jiffy.

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On most occasions, Yadav gets his sweep shots right and that’s how began the counterattack when it seemed Hong Kong will be able to check India’s score to around eight runs an over. He employed the horizontal bat shot against left-arm spinner Yasim Murtaza in the 14th over after which India finished at 107 for 2. Once Yadav found his touch and timing and the upper limbs moving, India raced to 192, an outcome the Hong Kong captain Nizakat Khan attributed his team’s poor bowling in the last seven overs.

That Kohli a veteran of one hundred T20Is was at hand to guide him, helped, but this was an instance when Yadav chose to go after the bowling in his own typical ways and when the India innings came to a breath-taking last over finish — 26 runs were added of off fast-medium bowler Arshad Haroon — Yadav had made a 26 ball unbeaten 68 with six 4s and as many 6s, which meant that he had scored 60 runs in small and big boundaries. His scoring rate skyrocketed to a phenomenal 261.54 for a 50-plus score. It was not his career high because he has a strike rate of 300 against Ireland in Dublin when he made a five-ball 15! He also has another strike rate of 300, against Scotland in the ICC Men’s Twenty20 World Cup here last year when he made an unbeaten 6 of 4 balls. In all, he has a scoring rate in excess of 150 in fourteen matches.

For all his mighty show with the bat, Yadav did not get to bat in his debut against Eoin Morgan’s England at the Narendra Modi Stadium last year. In his second match though he hammered a 57 off 31 balls with six 4s and three 6s. He has batted as an opener, at No. 3, 4, and 5, but India has now realised his value at No. 4, wherein he has scored 330 runs in ten matches at 41.25. In all, he has scored 758 runs with one century and six half centuries.

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Yadav did not have a good start in the opening match against Pakistan; going for a heave, he lost his stumps to fast bowler Naseem Shah. He has made quick amends with a rousing display and to see that from close quarters was his former India captain Kohli who himself spent time in the middle to score a half-century.

That he made a breakthrough into the Indian team was in itself an achievement and that he has made the most of it has automatically made him a certainty for the World Twenty20 in Australia in October –November. He has so far hit 43 sixes and 73 fours; he goes for the high-risk shots, but then that’s the nature of the game that he revels in.

When asked about his experience playing for the national team and with some superstars, he said: ““The experience really has been good. Before that, I had played a lot of T20 franchise and domestic tournaments. It was a question of adapting while playing for India.  And also how I adapt to pressure situations. That is what I do in practice sessions, preparations and routines. I do it before I go to the ground. It’s a different setup in the Indian team.’’

The first thing he did after reaching the pitch on Wednesday was to ask Kohli about the behaviour of the pitch.

“The situation demanded of me to bat the way I did.  The pitch was slow initially. Virat told me to express myself. Bat like I do. My plan was clear and I had fun. I feel batting first is a challenge. We are working on batting first, and how much to set as a target. Today also we did that. What total, what tempo to set in the middle, how to finish, which batsman will do all this. If not me, Rishabh Pant or Dinesh Karthik, or Ravindra Jadeja. We had the firepower and we knew it will happen.”

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Touching upon his fearless approach, Yadav said: “It’s all about what you think and what energy you bring to the middle. I have been batting the same way in the last three/ four years. I bat the same way in any situation. ‘’

It has been going great guns for India for more than a year in the shortest format of the game. The match against Hong Kong was another example of how he can turn the course of an innings on its head.  He has shown the readiness to take up responsibility and he passed this test in flying colours in what was imagined to be a walk-in-the-park match, but one that became competitive in the first session.

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