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India v Sri Lanka 2023

Suryakumar Yadav shouldn’t be automatic choice for the Indian ODI side

Sarah Waris by Sarah Waris
@swaris16 6 minute read

The omission of Suryakumar Yadav from the first ODI against Sri Lanka hints that he may not be in India’s plans for this year’s World Cup. Despite his blistering T20I form, omitting him from the 50-over format actually makes sense, writes Sarah Waris.

Yadav had scored a characteristically belligerent T20I hundred in his last India appearance. There were trademark scoops over fine leg; he somehow found sixes even after he lost balance and fell across on the shot; and comparisons with ‘Mr. 360’ AB de Villiers were abundant. His rich vein of form, which sees him average 46.41 in the format after 45 games at a strike rate of 180, led to calls of giving him a Test cap as well. While that would perhaps have been taking a step too much, pushing for his selection in the ODI World Cup squad were not.

However, he was not picked in the XI for the first ODI against Sri Lanka. Ahead of the match, Rohit Sharma said, “I think it’s a great headache to have rather than having no headache. Honestly, we will look at the performance of the guys who have done really well. The problem happens when we start comparing different formats to different formats.”


Rohit was not off the mark. Yadav’s average of 32 in ODIs is not eye-catching. A List A average of 35.97 after 118 games further indicates that 50-over cricket has never been a format he has bossed. He has as three List A hundreds in 118 matches. For perspective, he has three hundreds in T20Is as well – from 45 outings.

Yadav’s recent ODI form has not been great either. He has not made more than 35 in any of his previous last nine innings, failing to reach even double figures in five of these. He averages 15.37 in this period but has a strike rate of 95. Innings-building has not been his strongest point – yet.

When he first burst onto the international scene, Yadav gave signs of being a dangerous ODI batter as well. On debut, he made 31 not out in 20 balls in a chase of 263. Walking in to bat at 215-3, he combined with a well-set Shikhar Dhawan and finished it off in the next six overs.

Over the next five ODIs, he averaged 65.25 with two fifties, striking at over 105 in three knocks. After his debut, he was unbeaten once more in his next five games, albeit after walking out at 115-3 in a chase of 177 against the West Indies.

It is against the big ODI targets, when a batter has to combine aggression and caution, that Yadav has been found wanting. Consider the second ODI against the West Indies last year. He steadied the ship after India were 43-3, but was dismissed for 64 with 11.1 overs remaining. India, 177-5 at that stage, managed only 237-9. Had Yadav dug in deeper, they would almost certainly have got more.

Subsequent tours to England and New Zealand increased his woes, as he ended with 27, 16, 4, 34* and 6. He struck T20I hundreds on both tours, which probably rules out the issue of adapting to different conditions. It had more to do with too many risks upfront, in an attempt to approach ODIs the T20 way.

In the second ODI against England last year, Yadav had been attempting to play the cut shot for a few deliveries before England got on danger man Reece Topley for his second spell. Two balls were all it took for the quick to understand Yadav’s intention. He cramped him up for room and Yadav only managed a thick edge onto the stumps. A similar dismissal followed in the next ODI as well – Craig Overton sent down a bouncer, which should have been left alone. However, Yadav went for it, only to manage an edge to the keeper.

With a higher price reserved for wickets in ODIs, Yadav’s keenness to take frequent T20esque risks often leads to his downfall. With more fielders in the 30-yard circle in the middle overs, captains can persist with an attacking field when a new batter comes in, something a T20 batter does not have to bother about. In New Zealand, he was caught in the slips twice – a mode of dismissal he is unlikely to encounter in T20, where the edge might have run to the boundary.

Overall, Yadav faces an average of 24 balls per innings in ODIs, which increases slightly to 29 balls in all List A cricket. The corresponding numbers for Shreyas Iyer, his rival for the middle-order spot, read 47 and 48. For KL Rahul, 50 and 54. Yadav’s tendency to take risks early in his innings has perhaps proved to be a hindrance in 50-over cricket.

This is not to say that he can not excel in ODIs, but in the World Cup year, the scope for experimentation is limited. India are likely to back Iyer, who has succeeded in the format (1,565 runs at 47.42, strike rate 96) despite his short-ball woes. With the World Cup in India, his shortcomings can be worked around and his excellent skills against spin ensures he is a shoo-in.

The only other alternative is to have Yadav over Rahul (1,799 runs at 43.87, strike rate 89). However, leaving out Rahul will force India to draft in a wicketkeeper – Ishan Kishan, Sanju Samson, or if fit, Rishabh Pant. That will mean axing Shubman Gill (757 runs at 58.23, strike rate 101).

Of course, there may be a temptation to use Yadav more strategically, planning his entry based on overs left, not wickets lost. After all, if he comes in with seven or eight overs left, it should not really matter if he faces 24 balls on an average.

But then, given that Hardik Pandya (1,400 runs at 33.33, strike rate 116, 29 balls per dismissal) is a default selection, why not use him for the same role, with a World Cup round the corner?

India have paid the price for late experimentations in the T20 World Cup last year, and should not force results from players if they have been unable to step up when they had the time.

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