@Aadya_Wisden 4 minute read
With Suryakumar Yadav on the cusp of becoming the top-ranked men’s T20I batter, Aadya Sharma looks at the numbers behind his short yet spectacular career so far.
If you think Suryakumar Yadav has suddenly emerged and skyrocketed his way up the batting charts, you are only partly right. It has been a long ride, a significant chunk of which saw him work his way through the maze of Indian domestic cricket. The international debut – belated by Indian standards – came at 30, but he has just not looked back since.
Just 22 T20Is and 17 months in, Suryakumar is on the cusp of becoming the world’s top-ranked batter. The jaw-dropping ascent, in part, can be attributed to the often-questioned nature of the rankings, but it does not take away just how easily – and emphatically – he has become a raging force in India’s lineup.
Since Suryakumar’s debut, only Rohit Sharma – the leading run-getter in men’s T20Is – has scored more runs among Indians. Both are level at six fifty-plus scores, with the former having played three innings fewer. The signs were evident from the get-go: he whipped the first ball he faced in international cricket for six in typical Suryakumar fashion, complete with the one-legged twirl and flourish. His first three scores read 57, 30 and 50, the first two managed at strike rates of 184 and 188 respectively. He has continued in the same vein since: his current career strike rate stands at 176, the third-best among all men’s T20I cricketers to have faced at least 250 balls. The next Indian on the list is Virender Sehwag, placed 33rd with 145.
Suryakumar’s hot streak in T20Is has come on the back of sustained periods of excellence in domestic cricket. He made his T20 debut back in 2010, almost 11 years before his maiden international appearance. It was not until 2014 that he became an IPL regular; and it was not until his second coming with Mumbai Indians four years later that the numbers truly began to shine through. He has totalled at least 300 runs in each of his last five IPL seasons (including a truncated 2022 edition). For the Mumbai domestic side, he has scored the second-most T20 runs (1,420 runs). Among those with at least 500 runs, no one has a better strike rate than his (148).
T20I internationals only seem to be an extension then, if not better. Of the 20 innings, nine have been 30-plus scores. All but one of them has come at a strike rate of 150 and above. It’s even more commendable that he’s done so while not having a set batting spot, having featured everywhere from opening to No.5 in a short career. His unbeaten, 55-ball 117 against England last month was the highest score ever at No.4 in men’s T20Is. He’s also hit fifties while opening the batting, at No.3 and No.5. Including a stint at the World Cup, he’s now played against nine different opponents.
It is not about the numbers alone. Suryakumar has wowed the punters and the pundits with his punchy strokeplay, rarely taking time to get going, and unreservedly banking on his wide array of strokes. The enterprising gear-shifting really shines through in a batting order that has historically been guilty of playing too conservatively in the shortest format, and having more than a few ‘anchors’ in their top order. The valiant hundred in Nottingham alone had much to appreciate about: he walked in at 13-2 in a chase of 217 and raced to a century off 50 balls. None of his teammates managed more than 28.
Now just two rating points behind Babar Azam, Suryakumar can easily eclipse the Pakistan skipper over the weekend, with India set to play two more T20Is in the Caribbean. Among all India batters, only Virat Kohli and KL Rahul have had better career ratings. With the Asia Cup and the T20 World Cup to follow, an in-form Suryakumar can turn out to be a game-changer, the kind of middle-order maverick the side has missed for too long, or perhaps never had.
However, bigger challenges await him. Of the current top ten teams, he is yet to play South Africa, Australia and Bangladesh, and has only played once against each of Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and New Zealand. In a way, it also means that there is so much more to look forward to in the magical world of Suryakumar, and his ridiculously efficient manner of run-making.