Suryakumar Yadav looks to shine the light on his talent again | Crickit
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Suryakumar Yadav looks to shine the light on his talent again

Nov 22, 2023 10:15 PM IST

The 33-year-old will look to shrug off the loss in the World Cup final and get back to his best in a format he clearly loves

“Heartbroken. This will take some time to sink in,” said Suryakumar Yadav in a post on the social media platform X on November 20.

Suryakumar Yadav interacts with VVS Laxman during a practice session on the eve of the first T20 match between India and Australia(PTI)
Suryakumar Yadav interacts with VVS Laxman during a practice session on the eve of the first T20 match between India and Australia(PTI)

But time is in short supply for the batter known as SKY. Just four days after the loss to Australia in the final of the ODI World Cup in Ahmedabad, he will become the ninth man to lead the Indian team in a T20I since 2021.

The opponents, Australia, will be familiar yet unfamiliar. Many of their ace players have gone back home but they still have seven from their ODI champions’ squad; that includes a certain Travis Head. It is a series that many (players and fans) would have perhaps preferred to sit out but those who have been named, on both sides, have a job to do.

That’s professional sport and poor scheduling for you.

“It is difficult,” said Yadav ahead of the first T20I. “It will take time. You can’t just get up the next morning and forget everything else. Obviously, we would have loved to win but then, as you say, when you get up next morning, there is sunlight again... light at the end of the tunnel. You have to forget and move on."

And what does moving on truly mean for Surya? He has been India's breakout star in T20 cricket for a while now but as the World Cup final showed all those watching, ODIs aren’t his cup of tea. On a slowish wicket, he struggled to play with the belligerence we have come to associate with his batting. He got stuck, as did India.

To many this was why India should have perhaps considered Ishan Kishan as an option. The left-hander would have perhaps presented a different problem to the Aussies. At this point though, all those thoughts are little more than the ‘what ifs’ that accompany every failure.

The numbers have been repeated often enough in the recent past but are worth putting out again: in 37 ODIs, Surya averages 25.8 at a strike-rate of 105 whereas in 53 T20Is, he averages 46.0 at a strike-rate 172.7. The difference is stark and illustrates why he is widely regarded as a side character in ODIs but a bona fide star in T20 cricket.

His endeavour will be to try and take the handbrakes off in a format he clearly gets. The muddled thinking that plagues him in ODIs miraculously clears up in the shortest format and India and Surya are both the better for it. No one blames anyone for playing shots in T20 cricket and that is what Surya, the skipper, is preaching to his team as well.

“Let’s be very selfless when you go onto the field because I am a guy that doesn’t think too much about personal milestones instead of the team’s goal,” said Surya. “I have always told them you need to keep the team’s goal first. I have played a lot of times with them in the IPL and few India games as well. It wasn’t that difficult and it is really exciting to get back onto the field.”

The excitement is a mix of real and imagined but with the ICC T20 World Cup scheduled in June 2024, every match still has some value, though one reckons that IPL 2024 will be the real deal breaker.

“Keeping the T20 World Cup in mind, games that we play up to them are very important,” said Surya. “My message to them is very clear, ‘just be fearless’. They are in good nick, the team management tells me, and I have told them to enjoy their time in the middle, not do anything different as at the end of the day, this is just another game of cricket.”

Just another game of cricket, indeed. Nothing like the previous one he played.

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