Surya, the new Mr 360, building on the AB legacy

After a sudden lull in the form in international cricket, the Mumbai batter is back in the zone again – and that’s good news for not only the Mumbai Paltan but the Men in Blue

Suryakumar Yadav (Photo: Getty Images)
Suryakumar Yadav (Photo: Getty Images)

Gautam Bhattacharyya

The comparison comes up off and on, and the maiden IPL century of Suryakumar Yadav against arguably the most mingy bowling attack of the tournament in the Gujarat Titans on Friday evening has once again raked it up.

A 103 off 49 balls against the likes of Mohammed Shami & Rashid Khan, on the back of his previous highest (83 off 29 against the Royal Challengers) means Yadav is back in his elements in this format. After a sudden lull in the form in international cricket, the Mumbai batter is back in the zone again – and that’s good news for not only the Mumbai Paltan but the Men in Blue.

Is the 32-year-old Mumbai batter, sitting at the top of ICC T20 batters’ rankings since the beginning of 2023, the new Mr 360 of world cricket after AB de Villiers? This is a comparison that the affable Mumbaikar has been living with for quite sometime now, and with good reasons.

Going back a little in time, Surya himself answered the question during his incredible run in the T20 World Cup in Australia last November. “There is only one 360-degree player in the world, and I will try to play like him,” he told Irfan Pathan, former Indian allrounder and now a TV pundit.

‘AB,’ the former South African captain and one of the modern greats of the game, was effusive in his praise about Yadav in his own own Youtube channel during the last World T20. ‘’When Sky gets going, he is just unbeatable. When he gets going, he can hit the ball to any part of the ground that he wants,’’ De Villiers said.

There is no doubt that on current form, strength and the ability to improvise, Yadav has done more than enough to evoke comparisons with the Protea legend in his ability to play strokes at all parts of the ground – making it a nightmare for the bowlers on where to pitch the ball. Just rewind the six he simply guided an express Mohammed Shami delivery over third man by cocking the wrist or the flick off the West Indian quick Alzarri Joseph with which he reached the century.

It was a delivery pitched outside the off, to which Yadav went down on one knee and dispatched it over deep square leg to move from 97 to 103 for his first century in this competition. The shot may look like one from the net session but Yadav revealed that there was a method behind the madness.

‘’There was a bit of dew already and I had decided to try out two shots in that over – either a scoop over thirdman or a flick over square leg. I was very clear in my mind on what to do against Shami I just backed myself and went for it. There is a lot of practice that goes behind such shots,’’ he said later.

As the sense of awe and admiration over Yadav’s batsmanwhip rages on, it may be time to put things into perspective. The art of batting in white ball cricket has undergone a transformation over the last three decades – first though the likes of a Mark Greatbatch, Sanath Jayasuriya, Tillekaratne Dilshan and his ‘Dilscoop’ or Virender Sehwag in the ODIs to the likes of a De Villiers in the shortest format.

The difference between AB and the prolific Chris Gayle is that while the Caribbean giant stood and delivered – thanks to his brute force – the South African combined razor sharp reflexes, fitness and cricket sense to discover the new generation shots. A large percentage of them came behind the wicket and in front of the square – be it with the switch hits, ramp shots, slog sweeps et all.

Yadav has certainly taken it to another level by applying them in equal measure in international cricket as well as the IPL. This is the way the new batsmanship is heading – with him leading the way for the likes of a Phil Salt, Ishan Kishan or Yash Jaiswal to follow.

If AB had been the trendsetter, Surya has been one of the best exponents of such a batting template. Let’s keep the comparison there…

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