It’s hard to stencil this version of Suryakumar Yadav on the one that became ICC’s T20I Cricketer of the Year in 2022. That T20 World Cup innings at Perth in particular–a 40-ball 68 against a quick, near-unplayable South African phalanx of fast bowlers, where the rest of India’s batting fell like ninepins–told us Yadav is here to stay.
But two fifties in 20 ODI innings, capped by a wretched run where he made double figures just thrice in the last 10 outings, isn’t a resounding validation of Yadav’s skills. Is he not finding his feet in 50 overs? Format transitions can’t be easy for any batter and Yadav is no exception to it. Making this slump all the starker however are the back-to-back golden ducks against Australia, especially the eerie similarity in his dismissals.
To start off, Mitchell Starc can probably bowl dream inswinging deliveries to right-handers in his sleep. Yadav just happened to face two of his best in consecutive matches. In Mumbai, Yadav was beaten more by the pace than the jagged movement, failing to bring his bat down as the ball crashed into his back leg. In Visakhapatnam, Yadav tried to drive a fullish ball that slanted across him but swung back quite late to hit his knee roll.
Pace in the first dismissal, exaggerated movement in the second, Yadav–or any batter for that matter–would have struggled to fend them off even on his best day. But Yadav is also struggling for runs for some time now. And nothing batters the psyche more than clean, comprehensive dismissals like these.
Since Yadav’s batting doesn’t conform to cricket orthodoxy, he can be prone to such classic dismissals. There is also the question of adapting to a format that gives both batters and bowlers more time to find themselves, a scenario Yadav is still getting used to at the international level. The good thing is India are willing to wait for Yadav to come good.
“Yes he got out in the last two games and the series before that as well, but he needs that consistent run, like back-to-back games, 7-8 or 10 games like that, so that he feels more comfortable,” said India captain Rohit Sharma after India’s 10-wicket loss to Australia on Sunday.
“Right now, he has got in the place when someone’s been injured or someone’s not available. As management we can look into the performance when you give that consistent run and then you feel that okay, the runs are not coming and (he’s) not looking comfortable. Then, we will start thinking about it. Right now, we have not gone that route.”
Yadav’s sudden slump can also crank up the tension among the selectors who are alternating between an injured Shreyas Iyer as Plan A and a non-firing Yadav as Plan B for the No 4 spot if KL Rahul is considered a permanent No 5. A not-so-distant Plan C exists in the form of Sanju Samson but in the little ODI game time are India set to get between now and September, they wouldn’t want to give themselves too many options. Sharma too believes Yadav deserves a long rope.
“We don’t know about Iyer’s return. At this time there is a spot available so we have to play him (Suryakumar). He has obviously shown a lot of potential with white-ball (cricket) and I have said it many times before, guys with potential will be given some run,” he said.
Batters can be hit hard by the intermittency of ODIs. A T20 World Cup last November, a World Test Championship final in June and then a ODI World Cup at home in October–India right now are in the vortex of a transition that can be aced only if their core players adapt properly.
But Yadav is a tricky call, for India would want him to stick to his unconventional and uncluttered mode of batting. It is this determination to unlock Yadav’s potential in every format that is prompting India to draft him in Test and ODI squads, and persist with him wherever possible.
“Of course, he knows what he needs to do while in a slightly longer format of the game as well,” said Sharma. “I think things are there in his mind as well. Like I said, guys with potential will have enough (of a) run where you know they should not feel that ‘okay, you know I wasn’t given enough chances in that particular slot’.”
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