How Suryakumar Yadav beat the blues with an uncluttered mind

By, Mumbai
May 20, 2023 10:26 PM IST

The maverick T20 batter recalls his conversation with MS Dhoni when the chips were down

When runs had dried up at the start of the IPL season, MS Dhoni was amongst the few in cricket Suryakumar Yadav spoke to. After inquiring about his next car purchase, the India legend checked with the batting star if all was well “between the ears”.

Mumbai Indians' Suryakumar Yadav (AFP)
Mumbai Indians' Suryakumar Yadav (AFP)

“We didn’t discuss much cricket,” said Yadav on the eve of Mumbai Indians’ final league match against Sunrisers Hyderabad. “He checked if my mind was okay.”

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At that level, that’s all it takes. A cluttered mind may see devils when there are none. A batter of Yadav’s ilk can’t afford that, with the amount of second-guessing he engages in with the bowler through his stroke-play.

“That’s what I have learnt from last year and this. Last year was full of highs. This year, it started the way I wanted but suddenly (I had) three-four ducks in four-five games. It’s very easy to say that you have to balance it out, stay grounded. But to implement that in real life is difficult,” he said.

“If you create that balance, stay the same with your friends and family when you are scoring runs as you are when you are not scoring runs, then it reflects in the game. I have felt it during the last month. At the start of IPL, I started thinking, ‘where are my runs?’ But then I started doing the same things which helped me do well last year and everything came back to place.”

That’s how he buried the ghosts of the three golden ducks against Australia in ODIs. After a lean start to the league – his first three innings read 15, 1, 0 – the 2022 T20I batter of the year is having his most prolific IPL season with 486 runs at a strike rate of 186.92.

Ahead of MI’s must-win afternoon tie at the Wankhede Stadium, Yadav was the first to hit the nets, facing simulated bowlers. In the nets too, he was thinking 360 degrees.

“I save some shots for the game, but yeah, whatever strokes I play in the match, I would have already played them somewhere in practice,” he said.

“I try to play the field. I do not have that much power to hit long sixes but I try to play less risk, high reward shots,” he said. In Yadav’s mind, what the world sees him as discovering impossible angles to find boundaries comes with limited risk.

Does he have more shots in his arsenal? “The ground is so vast there are still so many areas that need to be explored,” he joked. “But I don’t try to do anything different. When everything is going so well, why do you need to look for a new area?”

With the late dash for playoff spots, will a MI win on Sunday be enough? “We don’t prepare for what-if-we-don’t-make-it. We prepare for a good game,” he said. “We have been trying for that perfect game, and hopefully it comes good.”

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    Rasesh Mandani loves a straight drive. He has been covering cricket, the governance and business side of sport for close to two decades. He writes and video blogs for HT.

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