One new and one old. Both integral parts of the Mumbai Indians franchise that is currently dominating the Indian Premier League. Both coming to the party for India with the series on the line.

In the first three games of the series, the side that won the toss went on to win the match… pretty easily at that too. But Suryakumar Yadav and Hardik Pandya joined hands to change that narrative for India and they both did it in a manner that will inspire great confidence in the dressing room.

Fourth T20I: Suryakumar Yadav, Hardik Pandya star as India clinch thriller to keep series alive

First up was Suryakumar. He walked (well, one could say he almost ran) to the crease with the score on 21 at the fall of Rohit Sharma’s wicket. He hadn’t faced a ball in his debut match and then was dropped for the next game. So, Kohli dropped down the order and decided to see what the batsman was capable of.

As it turned out, he is capable of turning the match on its head in international cricket as well. Suryakumar has played the maximum number of IPL games before making his debut for India and continued success in the IPL means that there is little that fazes him now.

Jofra Archer and Mark Wood have troubled all Indian batsmen with their pace but the former bowled a short one to Suryakumar first up and the right-hander swivelled and helped the ball along for a six over fine leg. The ball perhaps didn’t rise as high as Archer wanted but Suryakumar had walked out to the middle without even a hint of fear in his mind.

“It’s not easy to walk in at three and start like that, we were stunned by that start [from SKY], he stamped his authority, big credit to these youngsters, coming in and grabbing the opportunities, you set your standards high,” said Kohli after the game.

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From that point on, he just went from strength to strength as he made 57 from just 31 balls. The timing was the highlight of the innings but the manner in which he picked out the gaps was also an encouraging sign. He wasn’t averse to using the pace of the bowlers too.

“I’m just trying to be myself inside, talk to myself, keep things simple and it becomes easy inside,” said Suryakumar, who received the player of the match award. “The team management and Virat told me to go and express myself, play like I’m at the IPL.”

So what does Suryakumar do in the IPL? He is one of the few No 3’s in the league who come out and have the ability to get going right away. His strike-rate in the 2020 IPL season for the Mumbai Indians was a staggering 145.01. It essentially means the team has the luxury of having a proper batsman who can move the score along at the rate of knots.

In KL Rahul, Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli, India have batsmen who usually take their time before they look to play their shots and that reflects in India’s poor run-rate in the middle overs. But Suryakumar showed that he is cut from a different cloth.

Virat Kohli spoke about wanting India to play more freely ahead of the first match of the series and perhaps Suryakumar fits into that vision better than most. Of course, it is just one match but the right-hander has been playing in this manner for a while and achieved great success doing it.

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India eventually ended up with 185/8 but on a pitch that was good for batting, it wouldn’t have been impossible for England to chase down. There was a lot of dew in the outfield as well. But India’s bowlers came to the party.

It was a bit surprising to see Virat Kohli throw the new ball to Hardik Pandya but it perhaps was also about India searching for the all-rounder’s upper limit.

In Australia, while playing as a pure batsman, Pandya showed that he is more than capable of holding his own. But his true utility emerges as a pace bowling all-rounder and from that point of view, his return to bowling regularly was a highly anticipated event for the team. It can completely change the balance of the Indian team.

For instance, India were playing only five bowlers including Pandya and if he can be trusted to bowl his quota, it gives Kohli the freedom to play the extra batsman if he wants to. The T20 game is all about having options and the more you have, the better it is.

Pandya’s bowling was impressive for the manner in which he used all his variations. There were quick bouncers mixed with slower off-cutter bouncers, slower balls and then the odd wide delivery. It was smart bowling that England never quite got to grips with.

It was Pandya, the bowler, thinking like a batsman and bowling to his field. His four overs went for just 16 runs and in a match which saw 362 runs being scored, that was a gamechanger. In addition to being extremely economical, he also took two wickets.

India were still missing Jasprit Bumrah and Ravindra Jadeja from their line-up but they are starting to get closer to their ideal form. The competition for the batting spots is fierce and one can’t even be sure whether Suryakumar will make it to the XI but he sure hasn’t done his chances any harm. A few more knocks like this and he will be hard to drop from the squad.

On the other hand, consistency from Pandya will mean that Kohli can look at extra pace or spin options based on the pitch and that is a god sent too. It makes India harder to plan against but it all adds up and could be the difference in the T20 World Cup.