How Suryakumar Yadav makes professional cricket look like gully cricket on steroids

“Joke kaati-kitu irukaar Suryakumar Yadav!” (He is playing it as if it were a joke” That’s former India opener Abhinav Mukund on Tamil commentary after gasping at Suryakumar Yadav’s stunning six to bring up his hundred.

Sitting next to him was another former India opener S Ramesh, the one with the languid wondrous wrists, who piped up: “Hardik Pandya looks stunned too and Rahul Dravid must be wondering, “what was that, we never played those shots in our time!”.

Here is the shot. Just prior to release, Suryakumar had lunged across to the offside on a bent knee, suggesting he was going to sweep him over square-leg. The bowler adjusted to push it wider outside off stump. But Surya quickly re-adjusted his original thought, and somehow with great fluidity in the bat flow, sliced the ball over cover point for an outrageously skilled six.

It’s another shot that stresses a point made on these pages before. That professional cricket is slowly aping tennis-ball cricket of the gullies. The good batsmen in our childhood would play all these shots with tennis ball against seamers – the lap, the reverse lap, the sweep, this Surya shot too (changing shots at last minute), and also, sending the yorker length ball over the infield to all parts with wristy whips. Even to this day, it happens in that unprofessional world.

Back then not many thought it was even possible to do all this in serious hard-ball cricket. Just like how chasing big scores on the fifth day of a Test match was deemed impossible.

“Arre how can you, the pitch is deteriorated, they can place fielders near the boundary, they can bowl wide, wider than in limited-overs game,” used to be the refrain even from the fans. Now, all that ‘wisdom’ has been pooh-poohed.

The only difference is how all the zaniness of gully cricket has been so thoroughly professionalised. There is now method to achieve that zaniness. As if they have bottled that amateur spirit and perfected it in labs.

The main ingredient they use is ‘shape’.

In the series against West Indies, Suryakumar had the former Caribbean big hitter Darren Sammy gasp on air: “What wrong did (the bowler) Alzari Joseph do?” Surya had slammed a perfectly fine fast back-of-length delivery angling in on the off stump for a six over long-off.

The shot was appreciated in full before on these pages.

Suryakumar Yadav against Hong Kong (PTI)

In a nutshell, it comes down to how the modern-day batsmen hold shape, stretch the upper body, extend the arms to its fullest, strive to maintain balance even at that tipping over point – and wham. It’s all about positioning first – and then how to hold the rest of the body to allow for the violence to scientifically bloom to its fullest.

No more there is a visceral thrill of watching a six like the old days. For starters it rains sixes these days. The gasp-worthy appreciation lies in how the batsmen combine various little movements (and a difficult stillness) to come splendidly together to carry out the vision. The positioning, the shape.

If you want to see the next big shot to come in serious leather-ball cricket, watch the YouTube videos of local tennis ball cricket in Pakistan and India. There are several of them out there, and one shot is crazier than the rest. It first becomes a possibility in that world, and then we get to see the polished professional version in our televisions.

Professional cricket is now gully cricket on steroids. What is next?

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