What made Ravi Shastri call Suryakumar Yadav’s six off Daniel Sams as the shot of the match?

“Shot of the match bhai!” Ravi Shastri cooed, only he, as is his wont, pronounced bhai as bye when Suryakumar Yadav ran down the track to the pacer Daniel Sams and hit a back of length ball on the up and over long-off. Quite a stunning hit that, and brought up memories of Sachin Tendulkar sashaying down the pitch and slamming Glen McGrath for a six and a four off somewhat similar balls to long-off boundary in that famous duel at Nairobi 22 years back.

Even three days back for that matter, Sachin Tendulkar was doing it at the Road Safety World Series: though he hit a short-of-length ball from Chris Tremlett over long-on. Now, long-off is another thing altogether. And though Sams is no McGrath, the ball was a touch more difficult. As it was a tad more back of length and rose that touch more even after Surya had rushed down the track.

Also, Tendulkar had a slightly better technique for that six off McGrath (one flew for a six, and the other blurred across for a four). When he was down the pitch, he would get his bat a bit more horizontal that allowed him control and smash the rising ball that much better. Like a forehand down the line, if you will.

Surya, at least today, hadn’t had the bat tilted the SRT way. His was more conventional, a kind of downward batswing as one would do to a fuller pitch ball. The danger with such a shot to a shortish ball is that you might end up getting the elevation rather than distance and hole out to deep mid-on. But somehow he controlled it to get the distance as well and that’s why perhaps Shastri was singing on air.

Another difference to the Tendulkar six in Nairobi was that the McGrath ball hadn’t bounced as much as Sams’s. The four ball was quite similar height, rising even as Tendulkar made contact but the six in fact made contact with the toe-end of the bat. Also, Tendulkar’s was more thrilling as he had danced down the track; Surya’s is more composed careful positioning of the body; he did move down but didn’t advance as much as the marauding Tendulkar.

Surya has this skill to hold his shape even when he is charging down the track. Sachin certainly had it of course, the balance tended to be abnormally good, but on his day Surya is able to match that.

Most of his shots come from the calculated ‘shape-holding’ T20 book of batting. Hold shape, stretch the upper body, extend the arms to its fullest, strive to maintain balance even at that tipping over point – and wham. Most of the time, it comes down to the way he positions himself in a shot.

Secondly, even when his hands go the full distance as he stays with the shot, completely finishing it, stretching the post-impact extension of arms to its fullest, he is incredibly able to hold his shape. It’s one thing to do when he is standing at his stance but another thing altogether when he does it after marching down the pitch to a pacer.

The risk in this six off Sams was as noted, skying it straight up but somehow he kept the high elbow firm and punched it with the regulation downward bat swing.

Even Virat Kohli would say later that he was just awed by some of the shots from Surya. “Absolute clarity in what he wants to do. He has the game to bat under any sort of situation and any condition. He has shown that already. He got a hundred in England, he batted beautifully in the Asia Cup. Here, he’s striking the ball as well as I have seen him strike. For the past 6 months, he’s been outstanding. It’s the array of shots and to play those shots at the right time is such a tremendous skill. He’s a guy who knows his game inside out. He’s got the gift of timing and I was in awe watching him play his shots.”

The batting coach Vikram Rathour, a very fine domestic player who never quite made it at international level, once caressed a six off Shaun Pollock that had even Tendulkar, the non-striker, turn to gape at the trajectory of the six. Rathour had leaned forward a touch and wafted his bat on the up and through the line of a short-of-length delivery over long-on. It was probably the best shot of his career against a pacer. But Surya did it after moving down the pitch and over long-off.

Now, why do we say it’s easier over long-on. Just watch Tendulkar six the other day against Tremlett. When a batsman isn’t up to the pitch and the ball rises up from short of length, he can flex his wrist to ride the bounce and go across the line, if you will like a tennis forehand cross court. But if he chooses to go with the line of the outside-off ball, over long-off, it’s difficult to ride the bounce.

That’s why Tendulkar smartly would tilt his bat a touch more horizontally to whack the ball on its head, rather than come down and up like Surya did. But incredibly, Suryakumar Yadav managed to unfurl the shot and get Shastri stressing his bhai.

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