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Suryakumar Yadav: SKY-high among his contemporaries

Last updated on 28 Dec 2022 | 10:54 AM
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Suryakumar Yadav: SKY-high among his contemporaries

Why Suryakumar Yadav's sensational year in 2022 is the best year any batter has had in T20 internationals

2022 has been a disappointing year for Indian cricket. None of the trophy expectations materialised. The senior players under delivered. Injuries were a constant concern. The only silver lining was a number of youngsters turning up to the occasion.

One such batter was Suryakumar Yadav. Not a youngster per se, the 32-year old began his international career only last year. His first ball was a courageous hook against Jofra Archer for a six. That was just the starting point. The joy ride sailed at unprecedented heights in 2022. To such an extent that you cannot mention the cricketing year of 2022 and not think of Surya. He has been a narrative in himself this cricketing year. 

The right-hander amassed 1,164 runs in 2022, averaging 46.6 at a strike-rate of 187.4. The combination of average and strike-rate is as scary as it is astonishing. It’s just the nature of T20 cricket - either you score quickly but slip off the track or you muster runs at the cost of the scoring rate. 99% of batters function on this trade-off. 

But not Surya and that is what makes his purple patch arguably the most prolific year for any batter in T20I cricket. Yes, Mohammad Rizwan scored more runs last year - 1326, averaging 73.7 at a strike-rate of 134.9. However, T20 cricket is a different sport altogether which requires a different lens to judge middle-order batters. 

A glance through the annual top run-scorers in T20 internationals tells you the same. A heavy proportion of these batters are those who play in the top three of their respective batting line-ups. Surya played only eight out of his 31 innings in the top three and still rises above the cluster in the middle. 

“It is not only a high volume of runs but at a high strike-rate. It’s a combination that you won’t expect from a number 4. Just tells you how special he is”, said Ian Bishop on air during one of Surya’s bewildering knocks in the T20 World Cup, against Zimbabwe. 

There are exactly 50 occasions of a batter scoring 500 T20I runs or more in a calendar year. Only two batters come close to Surya’s combination and both are openers in the same year 2018 - Aaron Finch (531 runs, average 40.8, strike-rate 176.4) and Colin Munro (500 runs, average 45.5, strike-rate 178.6). 


Let’s talk about middle-overs which are centered around spin. Surya scored 899 runs batting at #4 or lower. He faced 60.2% of his deliveries in the middle overs, the toughest phase to produce boundaries due to spinners in action and a spread field. The right-hander produced a boundary every 4.2 deliveries, scoring 89 boundaries in total (55 fours and 34 sixes). Only two other players managed over 50 boundaries in this phase: Sikandar Raza (55 boundaries at 6.3 balls apiece) and Glenn Phillips (54 at 5.7). 

You can debate that Surya played more matches than anyone but maintaining that balls-per-boundary ratio for that long simply makes him special. His strike-rate of 157.8 is the highest among the 13 batters who scored 200 runs or more facing spin.

The trick lies in his 360-degree game. It allows him to access any part of the ground owing to the match situation. For example: the square of the wicket becomes the most boundary-friendly area for the 32-year old while facing spinners. It makes sense because the slower the bowler, the tougher it is to instill power in the shot down the ground. Hence, most of his fours against spin are square of the wicket. The sixes come traditionally in the mid-wicket region. 


Onto the slog overs. This is where Surya does most of the damage. He has 360 runs in this phase, the most by a space of around 40 runs. His strike-rate of 260.9 is comfortably the highest among the 18 batters to face over 100 balls. The ball-per-boundary ratio is 2.3, over a ball better than Sikandar Raza’s 3.4.

Another wagon wheel tells you the story. It is incredible how Surya neutralizes the yorkers with his access to square and behind-the-wicket region. 30% of his runs come in the V behind the wicket. Down the ground, it is only 12%. 

Surya faced 13 accurate yorkers this year. He tackled them at a strike-rate of 292.3 without getting out. 

He studies the field like a professor. During that outrageous knock against Zimbabwe, Surya kept shuffling across, presuming wide yorkers in accordance with the field. And it was his supreme skill to get everything right - his movement to get into the position, bringing his hands and wrists into play, timing of the stroke and the placement which is far away from any nearby fielder. 

How else will you explain a wide yorker being caressed for a six over fine-leg in one of the biggest outfields in the world - the MCG. 

For him, placing a third-man and a fine-leg are as important as a long-on and a long-off. Based on the field, he can flip you anywhere behind the wicket like he is flipping an omelette on a pan. Ask Richard Gleeson. During his maiden T20I hundred, Surya steered a full ball from Gleeson over the short third-man for six. A length he could have struck down the ground, Surya went behind square simply because there was no third-man in place. 

He has multiple strokes for every length. We have seen him paddle scoop a length ball almost straight over the wicket-keeper as well as pull a short-length delivery over the bowler’s head, depending on the field placements.

“I don’t try powerful strokes, I just play the field,” said Surya in a post-match interview during the T20 World Cup. 

The predicament for the opposition is Surya’s success-rate with these strokes. 

"He's playing some of the most ridiculous shots I've ever seen and he's doing it stupidly consistently. It's just actually a bit hard to watch because it just makes everyone else look so much worse for not being able to do that,” Glenn Maxwell told The Grade Cricketer. 

Virat Kohli termed Surya’s second hundred of the year - 111 vs New Zealand on November 20 - a ‘video game’ innings. He hadn’t seen a ball of that game but was accurate in his assessment, having seen him bat from the other end quite a few times. 32% of Surya’s runs in that innings came in the V behind as compared to only 1% in front. 

No comparison with the AB de Villiers (even though the great has approved them himself) but the method is similar. We can't even make sense of his stroke play and he executes it nonchalantly while chewing gum like Sir Viv Richards. You might think we have jumped the gun by mentioning two all-time greats but then a Sky Sports’ commentator cheekily mentioned Victor Trumper, one of Australia’s first few batting greats in the 1900s, to describe Surya’s expressive finish after a loft over mid-off. 

Surya has cashed in on good starts by the top order. He has overcome poor starts with his brisk strokeplay. He has scored runs in Asia. He has scored runs Down Under. He has racked up hundreds in England and New Zealand. There is not more you can ask from one person in a year, unless you are too skeptical to say he scored only 14 in the semi-final against England because he was still India’s best batter in the tournament. 


A strike-rate of 187.4 in T20Is this year, the highest among all batters (minimum of 200 runs)

A strike-rate of 205.1 vs pace, the highest among all batters (minimum of 200 runs)

A strike-rate of 157.8 vs spin, the highest among all batters (minimum of 200 runs)

A strike-rate of 172.7 in the middle-overs, the highest among all batters (minimum of 200 runs)

A strike-rate of 260.9 in the death-overs, the highest among all batters (minimum of 100 runs)

A strike-rate of 159.6 in the first 10 balls, the second highest among all batters (minimum of 200 runs)

A strike-rate of 270.6 post crossing 50, the highest among all batters (minimum 200 runs)

A strike-rate of 189.7 in the 2022 T20 World Cup, the highest among all batters (minimum 10 runs)

Surya is just SKY-high among all his contemporaries. He is the Sir Don Bradman of strike-rates. 

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