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Suryakumar Yadav - great idea, stark reality

Last updated on 21 Sep 2023 | 04:12 PM
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Suryakumar Yadav - great idea, stark reality

The promise of Surya, the T20 batter, hasn’t translated into performances in the 50-over format, raising questions about his place in India’s 15 for the ODI World Cup

If anyone is looking for a metaphor for Suryakumar Yadav’s ODI career, don’t go further than India’s largest insurance company - Life Insurance Corporation (LIC). 

It sounds absurd, doesn’t it? However, the absurdity of the above statement doesn’t make it any less real.

The Government of India (which owns the LIC) was planning to raise money by selling a particular amount of its stake in the insurance company by taking it public. They announced the LIC IPO (Initial Public Offer). Naturally, there was a lot of buzz among Indians who generally guzzle up LIC insurance plans as if it's a double-up-your-money-in-a-month kind of scheme. 

Meanwhile, in Indian cricket, Suryakumar Yadav had built immense appreciation and hype for himself as an incredulous T20 batter who made batting feel like a video game. His numbers in the shortest format (average of 46.02 with a 172.70 SR) were deservingly praised worldwide. 

SKY, as he’s popularly known, a full-on entertaining, colourful batting display, became the poster boy of new-age aggressive Indian batting with his substantial performances in the shortest format. Even if he failed in a few games, the trust in the idea of SKY, the ODI batter, was so strong that it was worth giving him that long rope, just like how the investors initially felt about the LIC IPO. 

With the ODI World Cup approaching, India’s batting approach was going through a shift as the team had finally woken up and saw that teams like England and Australia don’t do ODI batting like they did - similar to a middle-class Indian family’s financial planning in the 90s where they played it safe and long so that they could capitalise on the solid platform later. 

Hence, India decided it was time to jazz their batting up. And who else apart from Surya to add flair and ferocity to the good boy that was Indian batting? So, at the ripe old age of 30, bang in the middle of his batting prime, SKY made his ODI debut for India in 2021. The entire cricketing world awaited to be bedazzled

Let's stop here and go back to the LIC story for now. 

So, a date was fixed for the insurance giant’s IPO. The investors were ready with their money. The market awaited nervously to watch the dazzling dance of money as India’s biggest insurance company liquidated a part of itself. However, it all turned out to be a gigantic balloon pricked mercilessly by volatile market conditions. 

The issuing price of the shares fell from Rs 949 to Rs 872 on the opening day itself, and even months later, when the market is now mainly on the rise, trading bros predict more pain for the investors as the LIC shares continue to be a bad investment. 

From the highs of apna sapna money money (money dreams) to the lows of gareebi me aata geela (incremental loss of wealth), all due to the prickly reality!

Sadly, the above statement also proved true for SKY in ODIs. 

In the 25 ODI innings he has played for India, his numbers are human (average of 24.4 and an SR of 99.8). The gulf in his numbers in the two white-ball formats is almost as if the extra-terrestrial being that possesses him in T20s couldn’t survive the lethargy of ODI middle overs. 

In fact, he was exposed so drastically that one is forced to look deeper at his record at the domestic level in this format. An average of 33.9 and an SR of 103.4 in List A prove that the alien inside him shouts T20 whenever SKY plays an ODI, just like the blue Jaadu from ‘Koi Mil Gaaya’ grunted dhooop (sunlight) when it needed strength. 

The only difference is that SKY always needs more strength to succeed in ODIs. When one watches him play the format, it becomes evident that he struggles to find the right tempo to pace his innings. The most recent example of the Asia Cup Super 4 game against Bangladesh illustrates this problem. 

When he walked in at number 6, India were tottering at 94-4 in the 24th over. He swept his first ball for four right in front of the stumps! This is why he was chosen for India’s final 15 for the ODI World Cup, right? And he showed it on the first ball in a pressure situation - daring, dashing, authoritative, aka classic T20 Surya! 

After that, he decided the sweep shot was his oxygen. He continued playing it on a slow, low and turning pitch against the accurate Bangladeshi spinners despite missing the ball a few times and almost getting clean bowled. But still, he kept inhaling his oxygen, playing the shot and predictably perished while attempting it for the zillionth time. 

India still needed 127 runs in 17.2 overs when he got out. They ended up losing the game by six runs. This pattern of aggressive, dominating starts followed by predictable dismissals has largely followed him at whichever position he has batted in the middle order, and he has batted everywhere from 3 to 7. 

The promise of Surya, the T20 batter, hasn’t translated into performances in the ODI format, just like the LIC IPO didn’t rain currency notes on its investors. 


Sometimes, we believe in an idea so much that we try to fit it everywhere. We don’t care that we might put a square peg in a round hole. We keep doing it as a habit because dropping that practice will make us look fickle and indecisive. 

An idea of Surya’s batting in ODIs was formed based on his T20 performances, where his aggressive and fearless batsmanship was touted as the solution to the fear of failure that has bogged down India’s batting efforts in recent ICC tournaments. It was a viable idea with a lot of credibility behind it. But at this point, it feels as if the Indian management believed in it so religiously for so long that they can’t take a step back. 

The idea of Suryakumar, the ODI batter, has trumped the reality of his performance in the format. 

Even then, the Indian head coach, Rahul Dravid, in a press conference before the India - Australia ODI series, stated that Suryakumar will also be given opportunities in the upcoming two ODIs. He talked about how he could bat at number 6 for the team. However, for that to happen, Hardik Pandya would have to bat at number 5 and KL at 4, thus forcing players to play out of their best positions in the XI. 

There’s no denying that he can totally repay this faith in this ODI series by playing a blistering knock in the most SKY-esque way we know, proving that all sports analysis is nothing but a piece of paper waiting to be burned under the magnifying glass of on-field glory. 

However, currently, the Indian team management feels like a deluded investor suffering losses in the LIC IPO by showing faith in an enticing idea that gives no guarantee of return. 

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