Ind vs SA T20Is: ‘Third choice’ captain Surya has what it takes to see India home

The world's no. 1 batter in T20Is is closing in on Virat Kohli’s record of the fastest Indian to reach 2,000 runs in men's T20 cricket

Suryakumar Yadav is a perfect example of been there, done that (photo: National Herald archives)
Suryakumar Yadav is a perfect example of been there, done that (photo: National Herald archives)
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Gautam Bhattacharyya

A few days after Suryakumar Yadav led India to an emphatic 4-1 T20I series win against Australia at home, a TV pundit addressed him as the ‘third choice’ captain, on whom has been thrust the responsibility of leading a young team in this format in South Africa. Come Sunday in Durban, and the easygoing Mumbai batter will embark on what is being billed as the beginning of the build-up to the T20 World Cup in June-July 2024. 

The former Indian opener-turned-TV expert’s reference was a practical but unwarranted one — though he probably meant that it would always be a toss-up between Rohit Sharma and Hardik Pandya for the national or Mumbai Indians T20 captaincy, and SKY would always be third choice. 

From the selectors' point of view, however, the no.1 ranked T20 batter has been a vice-captain in this format, and could be groomed for any contingency — especially with a question mark hanging over Rohit Sharma’s T20 future, as well as Hardik Pandya’s return to competitive cricket. 

The best thing about Surya, no spring chicken at 33, is that he has been a perfect example of been there, done that. He did an admirable job in rallying the Indian team when fans were still trying to pick up the pieces after a shattering loss in the 50-over World Cup final, and hit form straightaway with a 42-ball 80 as India chased down a daunting target of 208 in the first T20 against Matthew Wade & co.  

For someone who has come up the ranks of red-ball cricket (he made his first class debut for Mumbai way back in 2010), Surya possibly sees captaincy as a bonus, since less than three years ago, he was despondent about even making his international debut as a player.

Having assumed the mantle, his relaxed demeanour worked well with a new-look team, with the entire World Cup squad on a break except himself and Ishan Kishan, and the way he marshalled the team’s bowling attack without a genuine sixth bowling option did not go unnoticed.       

On Sunday, he will also have an opportunity to overhaul a record held thus far by Virat Kohli — of being the fastest Indian batter to reach 2,000 T20I runs. Surya now has 1,985 runs in 55 innings and requires just 15 in tomorrow's T20I match to go past Kohli’s 2,000 from 56 innings. 

Incidentally, Pakistan’s Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan occupy the first and second spot on this list, having taken just 52 innings to reach 2,000 T20I runs. Kohli is currently in third position while KL Rahul (58) and Rohit Sharma (77) are the other Indian batters to feature in the list. 

Undoubtedly, Suryakumar is a beast in the shortest format of the game. Ever since making his debut against England in 2021, the 33-year-old has gone on to dominate opponents with his 360-degree batting. Apart from a wide array of shots, SKY also boasts the best strike among batters who have scored a minimum of 1,000 T20I runs. Currently, India’s stand-in captain’s strike rate is 171.71. 


In 58 T20Is, the right-hand batter has scored 16 half-centuries and three centuries. His average of 44.11 is the second-best among Indian batters. Surya’s ability to change the game in the blink of an eye, and win matches singlehandedly for India, makes him a must-have in any Indian T20 team. 

Finally, with Rohit, Virat, Rahul, and Jasprit Bumrah not part of the T20 series against South Africa, the likes of Mukesh Kumar, Ruturaj Gaikwad, and Yashasvi Jaiswal have a golden chance to also impress selectors ahead of the T20 World Cup. Mukesh, Gaikwad, and Jaiswal had a good T20 series against Australia, and simply need to continue the momentum. 

Ravindra Jadeja, Shubman Gill, Kuldeep Yadav, and Mohammed Siraj will return from the break to feature in the three-match T20 series. Barring the four, the rest of the squad will be the same from the Australia T20 series. However, the pressure will be on Gill, Jadeja, Kuldeep, and Siraj to deliver, as others have done well in their absence. 

India T20I squad against South Africa: Yashasvi Jaiswal, Shubman Gill, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Tilak Varma, Suryakumar Yadav (C), Rinku Singh, Shreyas Iyer, Ishan Kishan (wk), Jitesh Sharma (wk), Ravindra Jadeja (VC), Washington Sundar, Ravi Bishnoi, Kuldeep Yadav, Arshdeep Singh, Mohd. Siraj, Mukesh Kumar, Deepak Chahar

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