With barely 30 minutes to go for stumps on Day 3 of Mumbai’s Ranji Trophy semifinal against Madhya Pradesh, Suryakumar Yadav was batting in the 80s, and looked set to score his third century this Ranji season. He had Aditya Tare for company, and the duo had already stitched a partnership of over 160 runs for the fourth wicket to blunt the bowling, and already put Mumbai in a position of ascendancy on Monday.
Suryakumar didn’t do anything spectacular. All he did was, by his own admission was to play “risk-free cricket”. For most part of the innings, he kept the good balls away, and looked intent at constructing a typical Test match innings: dogged and disciplined. However, being a natural stroke player, there would have been the temptation to play his shots. However, a duck in the first innings and the loss of three early wickets in the second, had made him circumspect.
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“Towards the end of Day 3, both Aditya and I were intent on conserving our wickets and increasing our lead. At no point were we thinking about our personal landmarks. We knew the MP bowlers were tiring, and we wanted to cash in on that opportunity,” Suryakumar says. Both Tare and Suryakumar remained unbeaten in the 90s at stumps, and went on to notch their respective tons in the morning session on Day 4 on Tuesday. Suryakumar and Tare put on a 217-run stand for the fourth wicket making 115 and 109 respectively, which has given Mumbai an unassailable lead of 570 runs, and one foot in the finals of Ranji Trophy.
When Suryakumar made his debut in the domestic circuit six seasons ago, he was seen as a hard hitting batsman who could peel off sixes at will. However, with time, the 25-year-old has failed to take the big leap into international cricket.
Barring his appearances for the Kolkata Knightriders (KKR) in the IPL, he is not in the reckoning as far as the national team is concerned. Over the last two seasons, his team-mate Shreyes Iyer had hogged the limelight due to his prolific form in the domestic circuit. Suryakumar has been in relatively good form, but on most occasions, he has not been able to convert those starts. The big swashbuckling score in three figures is something that has eluded him this season.
Not surprisingly, his numbers this Ranji season point in that direction. The die-hard Virender Sehwag fan is currently ranked 8th in the list of the top run-getters, scoring 740 runs from 10 games at an average of 46. Surya, however, is not happy with those numbers, and gives an insight into his travails this season. “Personally, this has been an average Ranji season for me. Yes, I have scored three centuries, but I have thrown my wicket away on several instances after getting decent starts. If I had exercised a bit more caution, I would have easily ended up with six centuries this time around,” he laments.
Mumbai coach Chandrakant Pandit rates the batsman highly, and says he is one of the most talented batsmen in the country. “He is natural stroke player, and loves to get going from the onset. However, on most occasions, he throws his wicket after scoring an attractive half-century. I think this boils down to his lack of concentration,” Pandit says.
In an attempt to address this anomaly, Pandit promoted Suryakumar up the order by one notch (from No.5 to No. 4).
“Last season, he was batting at No.5, which I thought was being detrimental to his progress as a batsman…I thought if he bats at No.4, he will get time to construct his innings better,” Pandit adds.
Suryakumar soon gained the reputation of being Mumbai’s “big-match player.” In the league game against Tamil Nadu at the BKC ground, Mumbai were in trouble chasing 236 for a win in the fourth innings. Suryakumar along with Shreyes Iyer batted with common sense to take them home. “I scored only 58, but in the scheme of things, it was more valuable than a 100.”
Going forward, Suryakumar now dreams of representing India across all formats. “I know I am capable of playing for India. My time will come. All I need to focus is on improving my game and being more consistent.” Before his India dreams becomes a reality, he has another interesting final day in the field to look forward to, in which he will hope to quell an improbable run chase by Madhya Pradesh.
Brief scores: Mumbai 371 & 426 (Aditya Tare 103, Suryakumar Yadav 115, Abhishek Nayar 73; Ishwar Pandey 3/103). Madhya Pradesh 227 & 99/2 in 32 overs.