After India notched up their second successive win at the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2022 on Thursday, Netherlands pacer Paul van Meekeren had little hesitation in admitting that the most pressure he felt while bowling was against Suryakumar Yadav.
Having edged out Pakistan in their tournament opener, India registered a comprehensive 56-run victory against the Dutch to take the top spot in the Group 2 standings. Skipper Rohit Sharma got a hard-fought 53 while Virat Kohli continued his fine form with an unbeaten 62, but it was Suryakumar’s 25-ball 51* that powered India to a daunting total of 179/2.
T20 World Cup, INDvNED as it happened: India’s all-round show ensures big win over Netherlands
“I think we know how good SKY is. Over the last 12 months, if not longer, I’ve personally felt he was the biggest threat to bowl to,” said van Meekeren in his post-match press conference.
“Just with his open stance, I just felt that the margin of error was a lot smaller compared to Kohli and maybe Rohit, who are a bit more traditional. I mean they’re very good players in their right, and Rohit played some unbelievable shots. But when I was bowling, I felt the biggest pressure came when I was bowling to SKY. Obviously, if you miss a little bit, he punishes you. Same with other guys, but he did just a little bit more today.”
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Suryakumar, who went on to win the player of the match award, came in to bat at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Thursday with India’s score being 84/2 after 12 overs. KL Rahul had fallen early again and Rohit had gotten out after upping the tempo to an extent. India needed someone to take charge and press the accelerator, and that’s exactly what Suryakumar did again.
The 32-year-old hit seven fours and a six in his knock, becoming the leading run-scorer in T20 Internationals this year in the process.
Most runs scored in men's T20Is in 2022
“It feels really good to have numbers around but at the same time, I’m just eating the fruits of the hard work I have been doing in the last few years,” he said in his post-match presser.
T20 World Cup: Suryakumar Yadav stars as India beat Netherlands by 56 runs to go atop Group 2
Suryakumar has been India’s standout batter in the shortest format for a while now, and he showed his class again with a calculated knock against the Dutch. He made good use of the width of the crease and manipulated the field smartly to find gaps on both sides of the pitch.
The right-hander’s approach to the game has proved to be a major asset for India. Having a batter who can keep up the scoring rate in the middle overs is something every team wants.
And Suryakumar spoke at length about how he plans his knocks.
“My plans are very clear when I go in to bat. I look for boundaries, try and hit the gaps and run hard. I think 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,” he said.
“It’s very important to assess the situation when you go in to bat. Usually when I go in, we have less runs in 8-10 overs or a lot of them. So my role is very simple in both scenarios – if we have lots of runs then I have to maintain the tempo and if we don’t have enough runs, I have to raise the tempo. And I go in and simply play my percentage shots, I don’t try and do something out of the ordinary. If it goes well, great, but even if it doesn’t go well, I just keep banking on the fact that this is my game and I’ll continue playing this way.”
Suryakumar also offered some fascinating insight into how he practices and the mindset he has. His is a high-risk game but he has the confidence to stick with it.
“I try and put a lot of pressure on myself whenever I’m in practice sessions or playing a match scenario. So, for example, if I am targeting a few balls in practice and tell myself to get N number of runs – if I get out, I just come out. That day I don’t go in to bat again,” he said.
“So the same thing has 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.”
Till not long ago (read: 2021 World Cup) there were a fair amount of doubt regarding India’s batting in the shortest format. But with Rohit being among the runs, Kohli finding his best, and Hardik Pandya and Dinesh Karthik taking responsibility at the death, there is a sense of solidity at the moment.
The batter with the X-factor, of course, remains Suryakumar Yadav. He’s going from strength to strength and as van Meekeren said, is India’s biggest threat. There’s still a long way to go in the World Cup, especially with higher stakes matches around the corner, but his knock against Netherlands was definitely another step in the right direction.