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Suryakumar Yadav: The wait that keeps getting longer

Suryakumar talks of the night being the darkest before the break of dawn as he struggles to stay persistent awaiting India call-up.

Written by Devendra Pandey | Mumbai |
Updated: December 25, 2019 1:09:39 am
Suryakumar Yadav had an upturn of fortunes, but the India call-up hasn’t yet beckoned him. (File)

Suryakumar Yadav dreads selection days. In the weeks before the national selection committee meetings he is a bundle of nerves. For someone who has been called a fringe player for close to five years, you’d think the Mumbai batsman would have made peace with that frustrating feeling of being a step away from Indian dressing room by now. Of late, things have got worse.

Earlier this month, during the opening round of the Ranji Trophy, as Mumbai played Baroda, Yadav spoke about the mentally draining anxiety of waiting for that all-important call. And in case you are sitting on a mountain of runs – Yadav scored 392 at a strike rate of 168 in Syed Mushtaq Ali and averaged 113 from four innings in Vijay Hazare tournament – hopes and dreams conspire to further muddle the mind.

Seated at a Vadodara restaurant after a hard day’s play where he had scored yet another hundred, Surya looked pensive.

“I have never gone through such a thing in life about the India selection thing. I have heard from team-mates who played for India, that the anxiety of being so near to playing for India is hard to explain. It’s the first time I am dealing with it and I just want it to get over soon. Get back to my normal life,” Mumbai captain Yadav had told The Indian Express.

There’s not a bubble to escape into as Yadav says. “Other day I was seated in this same restaurant and finished my dinner, I was on my way out when an old man came running and asked, ‘Are you, Suryakumar Yadav?’ I said, yes. He said, ‘I’m watching your batting; you will soon play for India’. It’s a routine now. The waiter, the driver, watchman, milkman, liftwala, kids who play down in my building, are all telling me this. I just say thank you but it’s tough now to get over it,” he explained.

Suryakumar Yadav, Suryakumar retweet, MCA, Mumbai Cricket Association, Vijay Hazare Trophy, Cricket news, cricket Suryakumar Yadav. (Source: Express file photo)

On Monday, Yadav went through another agonising selection day. He didn’t get the call eventually as selectors continued with Kedar Jadhav for the ODIs against Australia but the Mumbai captain atleast got into India A for the New Zealand tour. He didn’t wish to speak, for the pain was familiar. His days of spending sleepless nights, twisting and turning in the bed were not over.

At Vadodara, he had spoken about one such harrowing experience. Yadav shared how in the middle of night, he had messaged a friend asking advice on what to do in these times. He didn’t get a concrete answer and was awake till 5 am for the game next day. His friends have advise him not to think too much but that’s easier said than done.

“Sometimes I don’t know whom to talk to. People say not to think too much. It’s easy to say. But the mind goes there automatically. I can’t help it. One day I couldn’t sleep till 5 am. The anxiety is at its peak. Other day in Surat I was mobbed at the station.”

Just not in the real world, but his hopes have been triggered by the raves he gets in the virtual world too.

“Online world has been craziest; Instagram has been loaded with messages. I try not to see it but it’s human behaviour to get attracted to praises. Sometimes I wanted to switch off my mobile data but there is a group of WhatsApp of my team. As a captain I need to send and share team meetings and other stuff,” he says.

Things are fine when he is on the ground. Asked whether the hype hampers his shot selection, he says: “It did hit me during few innings. It made me pre-decide my strokes. Ke ab use aisa maaroonga, waise maroonga. (How I will hit a bowler in a particular way). The kind of thought any player thinks in these situations.”

ipl highlights kxip vs mi Mumbai Indians opener Suryakumar Yadav in IPL 2018. (BCCI Photo)

Dream debut

With a tally of 754 runs, Yadav was the find of the season for Mumbai in his debut season. He played a crucial role in his Mumbai Indian’s success in the Champions League in 2011, and having shown a penchant in decimating attacks, he exploded on the IPL stage. He went on to lead India under-23 team which won the maiden Asian Cricket Council Emerging team tournament in Singapore. Back in IPL, he became a crucial member of Kolkata Knight Riders, however, back in Ranji Trophy, things didn’t go as well. The big runs only trickled initially and in 2015 Yadav quit Mumbai captaincy after reports emerged of him involved in a verbal spat with his teammates. In the past two seasons Yadav had an average season in red-ball cricket. He scored 460 runs in 12 innings followed by 273 runs in nine innings. It made selectors drop him from Ranji Trophy team.

Back in white ball cricket, Yadav continued to blaze. Last year during T20 Syed Mushtaq Ali tournament, he scored 360 runs in 10 games with a strike rate of 145 while this season too he flourished. His performance with Mumbai Indians became the talking point.When Rohit Sharma had asked Kuldeep Yadav, in a bcci.tv interview, who is the toughest batsman to bowl to, the chinaman had named Yadav.

His family too got into the act. His father, who works at BARC (Bhabha Atomic Research Centre), kept sending clippings of all newspaper reports on his batting to him. In the past, when Yadav wasn’t getting the big break, his mother took the superstitious route, asking her son to paint his car yellow. Yadav would go on to follow his mother’s suggestion.

Undeterred in struggles

Before the start of the domestic season, after IPL in fact, Yadav had decided to take the next step forward to push his cricket career. He wasn’t content practising indoors during monsoon season in Mumbai and decided to head out to Bangalore, Indore and Dharmshala. He had identified these specific venues, since it wasn’t raining there.

Yadav spent from his own pocket and traveled around India and says the effort was worth it. “When I went to bat this time, I was prepared for any situation. And when the ball hit the bat, I felt as if I had already faced it a lot of times before; I was ready before the season started. That confidence helped. I had told myself that practicing indoors was of no use. The ball comes straight. I wanted to train outside, in conditions I would be facing in matches. Things are very different outdoors, as compared to training inside, the difference between real and reel, you can say,” he had explained.

The day after he spent a sleepless night, Yadav slammed a breezy hundred in 70 balls with 12 fours and 5 sixes in the Ranji game against Baroda. When we met again next to talk about his innings, a scorer approached him for his autograph.

“Sir, you are batting really well, you will play for India, soon,” he told Yadav. On Monday, it was clear, Yadav wasn’t quite going to play for India soon.

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