April 14, 2023

Shaun Tait – For unorthodox players like Suryakumar Yadav, the fall can be a little bit hard

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In 2022, Suryakumar Yadav was redefining the concept of risk in cricket. Playing behind the wicket as much as he did in front of it, taking balls from well outside off for boundaries to square leg and midwicket, he was expanding on what was possible on the field and he was able to do it for a fairly long time. In 12 months, and 31 T20Is, he amassed 1164 runs at an average of 46.56 and strike rate of 187.43. Very few in the modern era have been that successful while being that destructive.

It prompted India to look at Suryakumar as a gamechanger in other formats as well. They gave him a Test debut against Australia in Nagpur on a spin-friendly pitch where it looked like, at least before the game, batting long didn’t really look likely. So they chose to keep Shubman Gill – a player equally gifted but more in the traditional mould – out of the side in favour of Suryakumar and his ability to play high-impact innings in a very short space of time.

But things didn’t happen that way. Suryakumar fell into a slump, scoring 8 (Test), 0, 0, 0 (ODIs), 15 and now 1 (IPL) in the defeat against Chennai Super Kings at Wankhede stadium.
Former Australia allrounder and vastly experienced T20 coach Tom Moody, on ESPNcricinfo Time:Out, found it hard to explain why a batter who not so long ago looked impossible to stop now looks like its impossible for him to score.

“It’s very hard to dissect,” he said, “But I think what we’re learning is that he is human. For a period of time there, we were sort of not really coming to terms with what he’s actually doing to the game; he was nearly untouchable. But I think now we’re seeing the polar opposite. Sport does a vicious cycle of exposing the human element of our vulnerability. You can call it form or luck or whatever you like.

“He’s probably doing exactly the same thing as he’s done the last 12 months but he’s just not getting the rub of the green. The thing is that then can turn into a situation where he starts questioning his form, questioning whether he’s doing the right things, he might start to change his technique or batting stances or all sorts of things, the way he is preparing which is what he shouldn’t be doing. That’s why a lot of people say cricket, particularly batting, is 80% mental and 20% skill.”

Moody’s partner on the show, the former Australia fast bowler Shaun Tait believed these highs and lows happen to batters who are unorthodox.
“If you look at someone like Glenn Maxwell,” he said, “Through his career, he’s had that sort of times as well where he’s had unbelievable purple patches and maybe a slump. Obviously he’s going to be highly criticised. Because of the way he plays as well, Surya, he’s got all those shots, and you can say he’s sometimes reckless.
“Obviously he’s an unbelievable player but you wouldn’t say he’s an organised player when he comes to the crease. Someone like a Virat Kohli, right, he’s an organised player. That’s his game. Surya can change things around innings to innings. But because he’s so flash and so great to watch and entertaining, maybe the recklessness can fall the other way.

“The other thing that comes in as well, maybe the hype and the great run he’s had maybe he’s come down a couple of rungs. Hopefully he can get back up there. He’s like Maxwell. The way he thinks about the game is a little bit different and so the fall can be a little bit harder for those sort of players.”

“Everyone around the world knows what Surya can do in white-ball cricket. They [India] should stick with him, I feel,” he told the ICC Review. “Because he is I think the kind of player that can win you a World Cup. He might be a little bit inconsistent but he’s the sort of guy who in big moments can win you something,”

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