After a free fall, SKY anxious to soar again | Crickit
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After a free fall, SKY anxious to soar again

Apr 01, 2023 08:09 PM IST

The MI man who gives bowlers the shivers is himself coming off an ODI low against Australia as he goes up against Royal Challengers Bangalore on Sunday.

When a batter is coming off three ducks in a row, butterflies in the stomach are normal walking out to bat in the next game. Suryakumar Yadav, after his three first-ball dismissals in the ODIs against Australia, could feel the anxiety as Mumbai Indians open their IPL campaign against Royal Challengers Bangalore at the Chinnaswamy Stadium on Sunday.

Suryakumar Yadav with Kieron Pollard(MI)
Suryakumar Yadav with Kieron Pollard(MI)

The tournament is a great opportunity for India’s top T20 batter to make amends. There will be the added motivation to make a difference after the five-time champions finished bottom of the table last year. Their middle-order mainstay not being available for the entire tournament was a reason for MI’s struggles.

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He missed the first week due to a hairline thumb fracture and was again sidelined in the final phase due to a muscle injury in his left forearm. That despite playing only eight games, Surya was MI’s second-highest run-scorer (303 runs, S/R 145.67) is proof of the value he brings to the team.

Despite his recent run of low scores in other formats, he comes into IPL with his T20 credentials enhanced. The Mumbai dasher is the No 1 ranked T20 batter. It’s been a season when he has dazzled the cricket world with some stirring innings. At the top of the list is his 40-ball 68 against a world class South African pace attack at the pacy WACA track at the World Cup, followed by an unbeaten 111 off 51 balls in New Zealand.

But after the setbacks against Australia, there has been scrutiny on his twice being dismissed in similar fashion against left-arm pacer Mitchell Starc. There can be two reasons – one can scrutinise his technique or blame rustiness.

One can point to an open stance, instead of staying side-on, possibly making him vulnerable against the moving ball. Surya prefers this as it helps play a range of shots.

As far as his technique is concerned, in the first two ODIs he got top deliveries from Starc, incoming balls delivered with pinpoint accuracy. They were similar to what Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul got against Shaheen Shah Afridi in the 2021 T20 World Cup opener against Pakistan at Dubai. The batter can play them only when at the top of the game or they will be in trouble.

To be at the top of your game, you need ideal preparation. One needs to be at his best rhythm, which comes with regular game time. Ahead of the ODIs, Surya was warming the bench for almost one month during the three Australia Tests and during the long breaks in between. After the first Test ended on February 11, Surya sat out until the last Test ended on March 13. For one who doesn’t miss even a club game, that’s a long gap.

His batting style is unorthodox but works for him. It did when he played his best T20 innings, at Perth against Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje.

His dismissal in the third ODI, bowled by left-arm spinner Asthon Agar, was proof it was rust. A fine player of spin, Surya didn’t play forward or back, and was bowled. A lack of footwork is more a sign of rustiness.

MI coach Mark Boucher said the batter was hitting the ball well. “Surya is fine. You can’t judge a guy’s form based on how he’s playing the first ball. Maybe he got out three times. I checked with him ‘how are you feeling,’ and he said, ‘coach, I am hitting the ball very well’. I said, cool," the former South Africa stalwart said.

“You can’t say a guy is out of form if he doesn’t get past the first ball. Hopefully, when he faces the first ball in IPL, the whole crowd will cheer and he will be back in business. He’s a great player, probably the best T20 player in the world for the moment.”

The IPL should give Surya the game that he needs.

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