Suryakumar Yadav named Wisden’s Leading Twenty20 Cricketer in the World
Alan Gardner writes on Suryakumar Yadav, who was named the Leading Twenty20 Cricketer of the Year in the 2023 edition of the Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack.
Suryakumar Yadav made his India debut at 30, and pulled his first ball in international cricket – a bouncer from Jofra Archer – for six. These facts help us understand a man known to his fans as SKY, who has been in a hurry to make an impression ever since rattling off a 28-ball fifty that day in March 2021, against England at Ahmedabad.
Another fact: between that, and the end of 2022, no one hit more sixes in T20Is. Indeed, no one came close: Yadav’s tally of 80 was 18 more than the next best, West Indies’ Nicholas Pooran. Last year alone, he scored 68 sixes from 621 balls, to go with 106 fours – one boundary every three and a half deliveries. Twice he scored a hundred when none of his team-mates passed 36. His maiden international century, against England at Trent Bridge, came off 48 balls, amid a blaze of audacious shot-making. A 49-ball effort followed against New Zealand at Mount Maunganui later in the year, and he began 2023 with another blitz, reaching three figures from 45 against Sri Lanka.
Even in modern T20, where hitting has overtaken batsmanship, such a ferocious rate of scoring would normally beget wildly fluctuating returns. But Yadav married rapacious accumulation with frightening consistency, becoming only the second man to top 1,000 T20I runs in a year. When Pakistan’s Mohammad Rizwan did it in 2021, his 1,326 runs came at a perfectly respectable strike-rate of 134; Yadav smoked 1,164 at a respectable-be-damned 187. All this from No.4.
Just as noteworthy was the method. There was plenty to admire about his laps, ramps and flamingo flicks. But when he somehow launched a 90mph Chris Jordan yorker high into the stands over point during India’s unsuccessful chase in Nottingham, it suggested his options would no longer be restricted by the laws of physics.
Yadav’s rise to the top of the rankings was as remarkable as it was inexorable, given he had spent a decade in Indian domestic cricket, waiting to be noticed. As ever, the IPL provided a platform, and he has twice been a champion with Mumbai Indians, even if they finished last in 2022, despite his 303 runs at a strike-rate of 145.
His philosophy is straightforward, and perfectly attuned to the format: “If there’s a ball to be hit… from ball one, go for it.” As far as T20 batting is concerned right now, SKY’s the limit.
The 2023 edition of the Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack is out now