On a two-paced pitch at the Sydney Cricket Ground, India’s top three struggled from the outset despite Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli notching up fifties. But Suryakumar was playing in a different world altogether. He was using the crease well to whip, drive (twice), flick, loft and in the process, showed his impeccable wrist work to hit five fours in his first twelve balls at the crease.
As Kohli began to catch up in boundary-hitting show, Suryakumar elevated his show when he thumped a full ball from Logan van Beek by dancing down the pitch and moving a little to the leg-side to dispatch the ball over the bowler’s head for four to the long-on fence.
He bettered it immediately in the next over when his muscular hit, by clearing the front leg and bending his back leg a little, helped him carve a loft over extra cover for another four off Paul van Meekeren.
In his trademark fashion of being in the position early to play his shots, Suryakumar walked across a little and flicked powerfully off his wrists, picking the ball from van Beek off his pads to send the ball over deep backward square leg fence and get his fifty off 25 balls to end India’s innings on a high.
“My plan is very clear and when I go out, I am very clear in the shots I want to play, which are my percentage cricket shots. I look to play those shots and don’t think to do something very different, which you can see in my last 5-10 innings. This is what I always try to do. The day it comes off, it goes really well. But if it doesn’t go well, I keep banking on that only as it is my game and will play that in future,” said Suryakumar in the post-match press conference.
Suryakumar, with his 51 not out off 25 balls, laced with seven fours and a six, ensured that India, who were at 67/1 at the half-way stage, amassed 112 runs in the last ten overs to post a challenging 179/2 in 20 overs.
Suryakumar’s 51 not out adds to the list of his tempo-changing knocks where he’s the difference between India getting a sub-par score and a winning total, with previous instances being 68 not out against Hong Kong in Asia Cup, 69 against Australia at Hyderabad and 61 against South Africa at Guwahati.
“Seeing the situation is also very important. The situation in I which go out to bat, there are less runs in eight or ten overs with two wickets fallen as well or there are a lot of runs with two wickets gone. My role is very simple at that time, maintain the tempo by getting a lot of runs or when less runs are there, need to go to the tempo by getting as much runs as possible,” added the right-hander.
Since his T20I debut in 2021, Suryakumar has been an extremely vital player for India, excelling in positions where the side have needed a flip from a dire situation with his 360-degree play and jaw-dropping shots with ridiculous ease. He attributes his success to doing smart work and practising simulations consistently while at home in Mumbai.
“I feel what I have done during my practice sessions back home when I go back to Mumbai and do it, I try and put a lot of pressure on myself whenever I’m going for a few practice sessions or playing a match scenario or doing anything any game.”
“I try and put a lot of pressure on myself during my net session. So, for example, if I am targeting a few balls, and I have to get N number of runs, if I get out, I just come out. That day I don’t go in to bat again.”
“The same thing I’m been reflecting when I go into the games, and my plans have been very clear. What shots I have in my kitty, I just go out and express that. I won’t do anything out of the box. It has been helping me, and hopefully try and do the same thing in the coming games.”
With him being a mainstay in the middle-order for Mumbai Indians for the last three-four seasons, being given a similar role in the Indian set-up, apart from fetching some success while opening the batting against West Indies in July-August, it has Suryakumar to get his gameplan sorted.
“From my point of view, the number that I am batting, I have practiced that in the last three, four years. Whatever the situation is, I have to just bat according to it. Looking at the game plan, I think it has been very simple.”
With the rich vein of form he’s in, it’s really hard to believe that Suryakumar is playing competitive cricket in Australia for the first time. But he finds the conditions a bit like it is back home.
“This is the first time I’ve come to Australia. There has been a challenge. I mean, bigger grounds, quick wickets. But where I play back home in Mumbai, Wankhede (Stadium) also has good quick wickets, so it has helped me, and I’m really enjoying batting here.”
In T20Is this year, Suryakumar is the leading run-scorer with 867 runs at an average of 41.28 and strike-rate of 184.86. He’s also got eight fifties this year, the most by an Indian batter in a calendar year in T20Is.
“Feels really good to have numbers around. But at the same time, what I have been doing in the last few years, just eating fruits of that hardwork,” concluded Suryakumar, who served another reminder by shining high in Sydney of how his smart work is leading to him enjoying batting in T20Is.
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