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Journalism of Courage

Suryakumar Yadav: Mr 360 is Mr Invincible too

India win high-scoring game and series as David Miller's ton fails to overshadow Mumbai batter's 18-ball half-century.

IND SA 2nd T20ISuryakumar Yadav and David Miller in action in the 2nd T20I match. (AP)

The third ball of the 11th over, KL Rahul creamed Aiden Markram for a six to wrap up his half-century in 24 balls. This was the fastest half-century by an Indian batter against South Africa. But the record lasted only 34 balls, as Suryakumar Yadav peeled off his half-century in merely 18 balls, sealed with a six carved over point, with his twinkling, whirling wrists, the upper body swaying back a fraction, and the body balanced on tip-toes.

His 22-ball 61 powered India to 237/3, a summit too steep for South Africa to climb that they ended up 17 runs beneath it, despite a David Miller century, handing India a facile series win. The scorecard could leave an impression that South African ran India close, but the visitors were seldom in the chase. Only Miller’s hundred and Quinton de Kock’s unbeaten 69 reduced the margin of the defeat.

As has been the case with India’s recent triumphs, Yadav was at the forefront. Some batsmen can make batting look effortless; some make it look splendid. A few others, like Yadav these days, make it look absurd. The world better get used to his absurd T20 genius. Whoever the bowlers are, whichever the ground is, however the conditions are, whatever the situation is, a match-defining Yadav knock has become an inevitability in contemporary times.

Indian cricket eulogises it catalysts. Sunil Gavaskar was the stimulus in Tests; Sachin Tendulkar the inspiration in the ODIs; and Yadav in T20s. There were others before them, and there would be others after them, but they were the single-most influential force of change.

Even before Yadav sprung, India had match-winning batsmen in this format, from MS Dhoni and Yuvraj Singh to Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma. There were two other batsmen of his county who clocked 1000 T20I runs faster than him. But none perhaps had such a transformative impact on a team as Yadav has since his debut last year.

Even without him, India’s batting, in its current form, looks invulnerable. But Yadav makes them look invincible. He is not only India’s Mr 360, but the Mr Invincible too.

Of all his gifts, and he has plenty, the capacity to improve an already healthy situation shines the brightest. He could turn brick into marble and marble into gold. When he strode into bat, furiously winding up his shoulders, India were coasting along at 10 runs an over. The openers had laid the platform with 96 runs off 9.5 overs. When Yadav joined Kohli in the middle at the fall of Rahul, India’s score read 107/2 in 11.1 overs. Even by modern-day T20 standards, teams would be happy just motoring along at six-seven runs an over. But not when Yadav is around.


The first ball, from Keshav Maharaj, kept low. Yadav looked suspiciously at the pitch. You would assume that he would embrace caution. After all, there were nearly 10 more overs to impact the match. His team had just lost two wickets. But what does Yadav do next ball? He sweeps the next ball for a two. One of his favourite shots and a relatively safe stroke.

Maharaj adjusted the line to middle and leg, so that he is compressed for room and he would be out leg-before if he misses the ball altogether, like Rahul. But despite the line, and a less fuller ball than the previous ball, Yadav swept. He made the line more favourable to him by stretching the front-leg further, getting it beside the ball and working the ball fine. And that was among the least riskiest strokes he played en route to his 22-ball 66.

The risk he embraces is bewildering—he shuffles to the off-side when facing a Kagiso Rabada short ball, waits for it until it almost brushes his helmet and then with a gentle twist of the wrists works the ball over the keeper’s head. Rabada looked astounded; de Kock, his former Mumbai Indians colleague, looked flabbergasted. Yadav was just warming up, and South Africans were just about to witness a treatise on T20 batting that would have rekindled memories of one of their own in a different era, that of AB de Villiers.


Yadav, of course, is a different batsman. He is wristier and more minimalistic; de Villiers, on the other hand, was more powerful and possessed more strokes. But both have several common traits, like the judgement and decision-making, the super-computer-engine-like ability to figure out the most productive stroke in the least amount of time.

The option they chose might be risk-prone, but they have both courage and conviction to pull those off. That Rabada over, he plundered 20 runs including a geometry-defying whipped-six over fine-leg, off one of the deadliest bowlers around.

Like de Villiers, he holds his shape even when fetching the ball from a fair distance. Lungi Ngidi bowled a really wide ball, but Yadav reached for the ball, his back-foot on middle stump line and the front-leg air-borne, almost stump-high. He still middled the ball and managed a couple of runs. At his peak, he looks like a rubber man, every cell of his body so supple that he could bend every sinew to his whim and will.

That he makes the crowd forget that Kohli is batting at the other end stands as a fitting testimony to his blossoming greatness. Kohli was amassing his runs at a strike rate of around 200, but Yadav was belting at 275. So Kohli went almost unnoticed, until he started striking sixes. The pair splattered 102 runs in only 7.2 runs, the partnership a blur of boundaries, ensuring that the relatively sedate middle overs fetched 114 runs in 10 overs. This is the difference Yadav has made—there is no middle-over slump, the run-rate only skyrockets. Even without him, perhaps, India could have posted 200 or thereabouts, but he turbocharged them to 237.

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All of them benefitted from South Africa’s shoddy bowling, on a humid and foggy evening when the ball slipped out of their palms due to the dew. Rabada was flat and bland, rarely as he ever is. Enrich Nortje seemed sleep-bowling, devoid of the usual venom and fire. Ngidi looked bereft and desolate, his erratic-ness was best captured by the repeated waist-high full tosses he flung at the death. The exceptional Maharaj aside, the rest just wilted in the onslaught. Or perhaps, it was a case of extraordinary batting that made the bowling look wretched. And with each passing day, Yadav makes bowlers that cross his path look more wretched.

First published on: 02-10-2022 at 11:56:00 pm
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