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As the Men in Blue take on England in the T20 World Cup Semi-Finals, Suryakumar Yadav will be the focus of all attention. In India’s star-studded batting line-up, Yadav has suddenly become a superstar, despite the presence of heavyweights like Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma. Over the past year, Surya has emerged as the most threatening striker for all bowlers. His red-hot form and amazing stroke-play have made Surya the top batter in ICC T20I rankings and Team India’s go-to player at the ongoing T20 World Cup. Though fans and experts who saw him batting in his early days were sure that Surya would shine, his cricketing journey has been no smooth sailing. He had to wait till he was over 30 to play for Team India, despite his obvious talent and magnificent performances in IPL and domestic cricket. Ignored by selectors for years, Surya has admitted that he would often wonder what was needed to be done for selection into the national squad. Despite the doubts, his determination never wavered, and he kept piling runs in style, thus silencing the doubters and breaking down selection doors.

Once picked, Surya made an immediate impact for Team India early last year. In his very first innings in the blue jersey against England, Yadav began aggressively, hooking the first ball from Jofra Archer for six! In just 31 balls, he got to his first half-century that was studded with three huge sixes and six fours. That blistering knock on debut against an England attack, comprising a fit Jofra Archer and superpacy Mark Wood, showcased Surya’s exceptional talent. Since that impressive international debut, Sky (as he’s fondly called) has made rapid strides. In 39 T20 internationals he has played so far, Surya has scored 1270 runs at an average of 42.33 with a fabulous strike rate of 179.63. In 2022 alone, he has smashed 1026 runs in 28 T20I innings at a strike rate of 186.54, making all applaud his great form!

Though numbers speak loudly, it is his aggressive style and attitude that make Surya stand out as a remarkable batter. Not only has SKY got all the shots in the book but also has yen for some audacious ones too, making batting look easy. Besides his stroke-play, what makes him an amazing batsman is the exceptional consistency of scoring and that too at a scorching pace. In fact, Surya’s 360-degree game has often reminded fans and experts of South Africa’s legendary great, AB de Villiers. His solid performances all through 2022 have helped Surya peak at the World Cup where his journey so far has been bordering on exquisite as well fantastic. Notching up 225 runs with three fifties, he displayed his class with the highest score of 68 against a world-class South African pace attack on the bouncy Perth pitch. That superlative knock is being rated as one of the finest in the history of T20 World Cups and former Indian opener Gautam Gambhir has called it ‘the best T20 innings ever by an Indian.’

In his latest knock against Zimbabwe, Surya again hit 61 off just 25 deliveries. The power-packed innings also made him only the second batter in the history of T20I cricket after Pakistan’s Mohammad Rizwan to score over 1000 runs in a calendar year. In the World Cup games so far, Surya has hit 25 boundaries and 8 sixes in the 116 balls he has faced – and is currently averaging a massive 75 runs at a strike rate of over 193!! Ahead of the semi-final clash in Adelaide, Surya’s fabulous record against England is worth underlining. Ever since he made his T20I debut against them last year, Surya has displayed a special liking for the English attack. In six T20Is against England, SKY has amassed 260 runs at an average of 52 and a strike rate of 195.48. His only T20I century was also a brilliant effort where Sky decimated everyone in the England attack with equal ease. A week after Surya reached No.1 ranking in T20 internationals, Indian skipper Rohit Sharma will hope that his most in-form batter will continue to thrive in the knockout games. For Team India to lift the trophy that’s eluded them since 2007, it is critical that Surya maintains his form and if he can play at his best, the soaring hopes of Indian fans could see a happy fulfillment. As he redefines T20 batting by matching the lofty standards set by AB de Villiers, Surya may just be the trump card Team India needs to crown itself to glory.


SIDDHAARTH MAHAN  The writer is a specialist on Sports and Cinema who works as an actor in the Hindi film industry

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