Suryakumar Yadav’s T20 exploits and his 360-degree style batting helped him find his way into the World Cup squad. The team management believed in his abilities and the head coach Rahul Dravid often saying that he was still finding his way into the ODI format.
And, going by his performances in the World Cup, especially in the final, Yadav has still not found his way in the ODI format. Yes, the pitch for the World Cup final in Ahmedabad on Sunday may have been on the slower side. He walked out to bat not at his customary No. 6 position but at No. 7 with the hope that his T20 style of batting will come in handy and fetch India some quick runs.
However, with the Indian batsmen, from Nos. 1 to 5 not able to face the challenge posed by the Australian pacers Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins, they were down to 148 for four in the 29th over. Yadav was saved for the later overs for his shot-making abilities and out walked Ravindra Jadeja at No. 6. The Saurashtra left-hander did not last long and was soon out in the 36th over. Yadav went out to bat at No. 6 with 14 overs left.
Yadav had to bat with the tailenders. He could not bring out his repertoire of shots that he plays with optimum results in the T20s. He tried to play the upper cut against Cummins behind the wicketkeeper but could not connect well and managed only one run on Sunday. He tried his favourite flick shot over long leg but only managed an inside edge for a single off Hazlewood.
He was not able to put bat on ball and justify his coach’s faith that he was good enough to be an ODI player. And, finally when he played the pull shot against Hazlewood, he played the shot a bit early to only glove it to Josh Inglis, giving the Aussie wicketkeeper his fifth catch of the match – the most by a wicketkeeper in any World Cup final.
Yadav has been a major threat in T20Is, no doubt about it. And his No. 1 rank as a T20I batsman is proof of it. The pitches are usually batting-friendly and with only 20 overs per side, there is not much wear and tear on it. Batsmen have no time or delivery to waste and have to go after the bowling in T20s. Yadav has a wide range of strokes to score big from the first ball and has more often succeeded than not.
In ODIs, it is not about going bang-bang from the first ball. And, if the pitch is slightly on the slower side, like it was in the final on Sunday, one has to apply himself and play the situation. Yadav tried doing that in this World Cup. He managed to succeed in the game against England in Lucknow on a tricky pitch to compile a good 49 in 47 balls.
Yadav proved his worth in the ODI series against Australia just before the World Cup with scores of 50 and 72 not out in the first two ODIs in Mohali and Indore, respectively. However, the 33-year-old right-hander from Mumbai was not the original choice in the playing 11 in the World Cup. Having to sit out of the first four matches because he could not be fitted into the packed middle-order comprising Shubman Gill and Rohit Sharma as openers, Virat Kohli at No. 3, Shreyas Iyer at No. 4, KL Rahul at No. 5, Hardik Pandya at No. 6, Ravindra Jadeja at seven and the bowlers to follow. However, the injury to Pandya and that ruled him out for the rest of the tournament, opened the way for Yadav as the batsman to fill in Pandya the batsman’s role and Md Shami to fill in the space of Pandya the bowler. This meant Shardul Thakur also had to be left out.
Though Yadav did not get much opportunity to bat, he still batted in six innings, tallying a paltry 106 at an average of 17.66.
When Moneycontrol asked Dravid before the start of the World Cup if Yadav, with his two half-centuries in the series against Australia, has cracked the ODI code, the coach said: “He was always a very good player. There again, that’s sometimes the nature of our country, right? Two good knocks and suddenly he’s cracked it. It doesn’t work like that. He’s always been a fantastic player. Two good games or two bad games honestly didn’t change it for us. We’ve always known that there’s a certain ability and talent that he brings to both those white-ball formats for us. It’s just a question of just the confidence it would have given him.”
For Dravid, it was all about giving his players confidence and the longer rope. Dravid added: “The fact that we were able to set him up beautifully for the role at the back end, and the confidence that it would have given him was fantastic. It’s also really good to see that he’s working on certain things. We’ve also been chatting to him a little bit about finding different ways to score runs. We know that his preferred route of scoring runs in the T20 format has been square of the wicket. He’s played a lot of cricket, scores a lot of runs square of the wicket, which makes him incredibly effective and absolutely a gun in T20 cricket, but in one-day cricket you’ve sometimes got to find other ways to play as well, and other areas of the field to access, and credit to him, he’s working really hard, he’s really developing other facets to his game as well. Everyone is a work in progress, everyone is constantly looking to improve, and the same with Surya. We’ve got him in a really good space in terms of his skill.”
Sunday was not to be his, neither was this World Cup for him. Yadav may have played his last ODI. Certainly his last Cricket World Cup, which also was his first. The Indian team will now look at building the team for next year’s T20 World Cup and for the 2027 50-over World Cup.
Yadav may figure in the T20 World Cup, for that is his forte. He tried it in ODI, but must have found out now that it is a different cup of tea.