For someone who has redifined T20 batting over the past few years, it was a surprise that Suryakumar Yadav had yet to score a domestic hundred or even one in the Indian Premier League. That changed on Friday as Yadav scored his first century in the IPL to lead the Mumbai Indians to a 27-run victory over defending champions Gujarat Titans at the Wankhede.
Prior to his first IPL ton, Yadav had already scored three centuries in T20Is. On Friday, Yadav unleashed his range of shots to cement his position as India’s best batter in the shortest format of the game.
“I can say that (was my best T20 innings) because whenever I get runs, I think that the team should win,” Yadav said after being named the player of the match.
“Most importantly, we batted first today and we had a meeting in the afternoon today where we said we will have the same intent that we have chasing 200 or 200+ and we’ll keep up the tempo till the last over. You can say that it was one of my best T20 innings,” he said.
“Honestly, it’s just the confidence the guy has got,” MI captain Rohit Sharma said of Yadav in the post-match presentation.
“At the start of the tournament, we were deciding whether we should get a left-right combination, Surya came and said, ‘no, I want to go in’. It doesn’t matter if a leg-spinner is bowling or an off-spinner, he just wants to go in. He has so much confidence in the last few seasons he has played for us. Not just for us, but for India as well. That’s the kind of confidence he brings and it rubs off on the guys who are batting with him in the middle,” he added.
Yadav struggled for form earlier this year which saw him being dismissed for a hat-trick of golden ducks against Australia in the ODI series. But after a slow start to the IPL season, he has been in fine form once again.
“There’s no looking back for him. Good thing about him is that every game he’s wanting to start fresh and not worry about what has happened in the previous game which is always nice for a cricketer to think like that. Sometimes you can sit back and think about it and be very proud about it, but that’s not the case with him,” Sharma said.
GT captain Hardik Pandya was also full of praise. “People have spoken enough about him. I feel he’s one of the best batters in T20 cricket. When he gets going, it gets really difficult to set fields for him. You have to execute your plans and outdo him otherwise you saw what can happen. He kept putting pressure on our bowlers and he got the better of them,” he said.
It is not without reason that captains, like Pandya said, find it difficult to set fields for Yadav. Like South Africa great AB de Villiers, Yadav has earned himself the moniker of Mr 360° with his ability to hit towards every corner of the ground.
Against GT, Yadav played his trademark swept sixes and booming cover drives. But one particular shot vowed even the legendary Sachin Tendulkar in the MI dressing room. In the 19th over bowled by Mohammed Shami, Yadav moved towards the leg side for a fullish delivery before driving-slicing the ball over third-man for a six.
Explaining the shot, Yadav said, “There was a lot of dew even after just 7-8 overs so I knew what my shots would be. One side of the boundary was 75-80 metres, so I was prepared for two shots in that over: scooping over third man or flicking over square leg. I wasn’t thinking of going straight because he was going to come hard, maybe a yorker. I had two shots in mind and I played that shot before and I’m really happy that it went over third-man.”
“There’s lots and lots of practice that goes behind. When I practice and how I practice is important. So when I come out to the middle, I am very clear in my mind,” he added.
With that win, MI have climbed to third in the points table and will next play the Lucknow Super Giants in Lucknow on Tuesday. Table toppers GT host Sunrisers Hyderabad in Ahmedabad on Monday.