Surya rises under lights
Unless you are someone who follows the Indian domestic scene closely and don’t just tune in when the IPL theme starts playing, Suryakumar Yadav could come across as just another manic T20 finisher. After all, that’s the role he’s played gallantly for KKR since joining them a few years ago. But when he’s not donning Kolkata’s purple and gold, the right-hander from Mumbai’s suburbs is a prodigal talent turned complete batsman blessed with an expansive array of strokes and solid technique—as his first-class average of 46.97 in 47 matches would indicate. If anything it’s been his temperament, which has tended more towards being hyperactive than judicious, that’s been a drawback.
On Sunday, he came out to bat at No.3 for the first time in his IPL career—owing to Manish Pandey missing out with chicken-pox. This was his chance to showcase not just his full repertoire as a batsman but also the new-found maturity. Surya did both with his maiden IPL half-century that also set up KKR’s fourth win of the season in a run-chase that got nerve-racking in the end and required a nerveless last-over six from Umesh Yadav to be sealed.
Surya didn’t have to wait too long to commence his new role with Robin Uthappa being trapped lbw off Albie Morkel first-ball. And he started off as he routinely does in the IPL with a well-struck boundary. He continued in his aggressive vein, hitting four boundaries off the first 9 balls he faced. It was a pitch—slow and sluggish but with plenty of sharp turn—designed for R Ashwin to hamper the opposition. But Surya hit him out of the attack, twice launching the off-spinner over the long-on fence with clean strikes in Ashwin’s only two overs of the night.
He raced to 40 off 23 within the first power-play, but then settled down to play second fiddle to Yusuf Pathan who kept smacking deliveries that pitched under his bat—like he usually does—over the ropes. And even though his dismissal for a 49-ball 60 did ensure a few fingernails would need to filing in the KKR dug-out, he had done his job.
KKR’s win also meant MS Dhoni has now lost four matches on the trot as IPL captain for the first time ever. Already with Pune, he’s shaken his head in disgust on the field more often in five matches than he did during eight seasons with CSK. And it’s fast turning into a headache that refuses to go away. It has mainly to do with his bowlers’ inability to execute the plans that he tries to set for them. Sunday’s pitch was one where he wanted his spinners to bowl slightly flatter and on a length, considering the rapid and considerable turn that was on offer. But repeatedly both Ashwins and Ankit Sharma kept delivering balls right under the batsman’s willow, and getting launched into the Pune night sky, resulting in more head shakes from behind the wicket.
And as soon as the leg-spinning Ashwin did correct his length, he immediately had Surya trapped in front with a googly. Thisara Perera then got rid of Andre Russell with a leg-cutter that pitched short of length, but then much to Dhoni’s anguish landed an off-cutter right under Umesh’s bat to see another match slip out of Dhoni’s gloves. His counterpart Gautam Gambhir even managed to rub salt into his wounds by indicating what he thought of the pitch on offer by putting himself at silly-point and having a slip and a leg-slip when Dhoni walked out to bat, that too in the 18th over of Pune’s innings.
You look at Rajat Bhatia and Rajagopal Satish and can easily picture them easily slipping into the late Martin Crowe’s Dibbly, Dobbly, Wibbly, Wobbly brigade. But at the advent of T20 cricket, Bhatia and Satish seemed exactly the kind of cricketers who could risk extinction. Of course their offerings at medium-pace would be cannon fodder for the T20 generation’s massive muscles and big bats. But to their credit, the duo—at 36 and 35 respectively—have kept themselves not just relevant but also in demand. This was Satish’s first IPL match in three years, and it was his impressive outing as Tamil Nadu’s one-day captain this season that brought him to KKR’s attention. He showed that he’s still got it, by rolling out three overs of gentle cutters armed with cunning changes of pace that proved a menace for Pune and also got rid of the dangerous Perera. Satish then also hit a six at a crucial time for good measure. Bhatia, meanwhile, proved once more that size and pace doesn’t always matter in T20 cricket, and was the biggest threat for Kolkata as he almost knocked them out with a wily spell of 2/19.
Brief Scores: Rising Pune Super Giants 160/5 in 20 overs (Rahane 67 off 52 balls, Steve Smith 31 off 28 balls, MS Dhoni 23 off 12) lost to Kolkata Knight Riders 162/8 in 19.3 overs (Suryakumar Yadav 60 off 49, Yusuf Pathan 36 off 27) by two wickets.