Suryakumar Yadav calls Kolkata his “second home”. His association with Kolkata Knight Riders is the obvious reason. This time, however, Yadav has come here as Mumbai captain, keen to plot Bengal’s downfall in the Ranji Trophy Group A fixture that starts Sunday.
Young and aggressive, that’s how you describe the 24-year-old. The young man has been handed over the reins in Mumbai’s hour of crisis. The 40-time Ranji champions are struggling. A loss to Jammu & Kashmir, at home, in their first match was followed by another wobble against the Railways. An eight-wicket win over Uttar Pradesh in the last game has lifted the morale a bit but Mumbai are still far from convincing.
Six changes have been made to the winning squad with Hiken Shah, Sushant Marathe, Vishal Dabholkar, Bravish Shetty, Praful Waghela, and Kevin Almeida going out and Shrideep Mangela, Sarfaraz Khan, Siddhesh Lad, Akhil Herwadkar, Sufiyan Shaikh and Iqbal Abdulla coming in. The fledglings are there because their captain believes they’ve the right attitude.
“Mumbai require players who are temperamentally strong and ready to express themselves. I wasn’t satisfied with the temperament and attitude of some of the players. You can see it in their eyes,” said Yadav on the match eve.
He went on: “We need players who are street-smart and can deliver on the field. Experience is good but young blood is also important. This is the team I want to back for the future. We are in the process of rebuilding, and these players will be part of our plans for the next five-six years.”
Mumbai coach Pravin Amre is impressed with the confidence level of his captain. “He’s a very confident young man. This is a challenging job, but he’s game. Every match presents him with a learning opportunity and Surya is learning every game. He’s a quick learner. We see him as someone who would be there for the next five-six years. But it’s important for him to see out this season. It would be comparatively easier next year, for (Ajinkya) Rahane and Rohit (Sharma) might be available,” Amre said.
According to him, the added responsibility has made a positive impact on Yadav’s batting. The numbers justify his claim. Yadav had scored 529 runs in eight matches (average 40.69) last season. This time, he has already made 243 runs at 60.75 in three matches (including one century and a half-century).
In fact, the skipper has been the only shining light amid a batting gloom. But Yadav, who is batting at No. 5, is loath to come up the order. “Just because I’m batting well doesn’t mean I’ve to come up the order. My slot allows me to play with the top order as also with the tail,” Yadav said, once again sounding authoritative.
Meanwhile, young Sarfaraz might make his first-class debut on Sunday. Yadav was full of praise for the young allrounder who came to prominence after scoring a record 439 in his maiden Harris Shield game in 2009. The 17-year-old has gone through many ups and downs since and Yadav feels he’s now ready for this level.