It’s become a constant topic of debate. India and its middle order in white-ball cricket. They just don’t seem to be on the same page. That Indian middle-order has been in a mess for quite a while now.
Players have come and gone, they’ve chopped and changed the positions and yet, they’ve found little success. This is a debate that could keep going on and on and on. The more you talk about it, the lesser it is. The likes of Shreyas Iyer, Rishabh Pant, Manish Pandey, the Pandya brothers and Ravindra Jadeja seem to be in the mix in the middle order race. Sanju Samson was also included for a series while Shivam Dube has also put his hand up and has entered the race with the injury to Hardik Pandya.
However, there is one name that may not even be discussed and that is Suryakumar Yadav. He’s been playing domestic cricket for a decade now and has been a key member of the Mumbai side across all three formats.
The right-hander first shot into the limelight while playing for Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) in the early part of this decade. Yadav batted down the order and donned the finisher’s role. He walked in and played some useful and very cameos. Some of his stroke-play was pretty attractive as he played some audacious and inventive shots. The Mumbaikar showed his ability to play all around the wicket and displayed his 3600 game.
However, he hardly scored big runs. In the four years, he was with KKR, Yadav scored just one fifty. In 54 games, he amassed 608 runs at an average of 22.52 and at a strike-rate of 131.89. But the switch to Mumbai Indians (MI) in 2018 worked wonders for him.
Yadav has batted in the top order and has relished the opportunity. He is scoring at the same rate but is consistently getting a lot more opportunities. He’s had a couple of excellent seasons and has shown that he can adapt. In 2018, he was opening the innings and he scored 512 runs in the season. Earlier this year, he dropped down to No. 3 and yet, continued scoring runs. He aggregated 424 runs and the strike-rate wasn’t too different from the earlier seasons.
That’s not all, Yadav has been in fine form in domestic cricket as well. In this white-ball season, he’s been Mumbai’s enforcer. Be it in the Vijay Hazare or Syed Mushtaq Ali, batting in the middle order, Yadav has shown that he can be a beast in white-ball cricket. In the 50-over tournament, he batted just four times and scored 226 runs and was dismissed just twice. Moreover, these runs came at a phenomenal strike-rate of 154.79. He’s continued that form in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy as well. He has scored 312 runs at an average of 52.00 and a strike-rate of 158.37.
With India searching for an enforcer in the middle, Yadav could well be the right fit. Yes, there is quite a bit of competition but the Mumbai-born has never been in the picture. He could well be tried at 4 or 5. He has shown the ability to adapt and change his game accordingly.
Yadav can play the situation well too. He can rotate around and keep the scoreboard ticking while he can also exhibit his power game and suddenly, turn it into a carnage. Be it the power game or the touch game, Yadav can succeed while doing both.
And he is showing that in the ongoing domestic season. In the Vijay Hazare, he came in and blasted out oppositions and scored boundaries at will. In the Syed Mushtaq Ali, his chasing game has been at it’s best as well. Two out of his three half-centuries in this tournament have come while batting second and on both occasions, he’s driven the team home and has scored big.
Yet, it is slightly surprising that he hasn’t got a chance or even been considered once in the T20 squad. However, the man in the spotlight isn’t too bothered. “If you think only about ‘I have to play for India’, it puts unnecessary pressure on you. But I strongly feel that the time is around the corner and I’m going to push the door this year,” Suryakumar Yadav said in an interview with ESPNCricinfo recently.
He’s been in sizzling form and is worth giving a shot in India’s middle-order mess. The T20 World Cup maybe 11 months away but the process has already begun and Yadav could well dwell on those hard and bouncy Australian tracks. Thus, he could be a snug fit in India’s T20 plans, given their ever-wobbly middle order.