India had lost their big guns Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli in quick succession to the South Africa’s pumped-up pacemen Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje when Suryakumar Yadav walked in. The first ball was an unplayable Jaffa, that in KL Rahul’s words, made Surya “woke up”. It was a sharp lifting nipbacker from Nortje that rammed into a hopping Surya’s ribcage.
It seems that ball helped firm up Suryakumar’s approach. Since the target wasn’t too much and the ball was moving around, a few batsmen might have decided to play out the pacers. Surya went the other way.
The reason was interesting and revealing.
“He said if I look to be defensive on a pitch like this, I am not sure I will be able to do the job for the team. I am going to stick with what I know best and play my shots and see how I can get runs.”
Self-awareness about his game has been his key to success and he quickly decided on this track, he wasn’t going to hang around. That he left for Rahul. “That [approach from Surya] actually helped me and play one end,” Rahul would say.
Instead, Surya went for the counterattack. Though it came with risks attached. The next ball after the wake up call flew over third man as he tried to play his favourite swing to the leg side but the pace, the line, and bounce on the ball defeated his intent. Nortje let himself down next ball with the attempted yorker ending up as a half-volley on pads and Surya played his flamboyant pick-up shot over deep backward square-leg. With those two hits, one fortuitous and the other deliberate but both consciously aggressive, Suryakumar had broken the shackles and was on his way.
“After the first ball that hit him [Nortje’s nipbacker cut in and bounced to rap Surya on his chest almost], he just woke up!” Rahul would say with a smile. “He just wants to play his shots and be aggressive. And take on the bowling.”
It wasn’t an easy pitch to do that though. “It’s right up there as one of the toughest pitches that we have played in. We have played in some difficult conditions like this but I haven’t got runs, so this was hard work,” Rahul said.
But he added that India expected the pitch to play somewhat like this after their training session on Tuesday night.
“We had practiced here yesterday and that was a humbling experience as well. We all came in prepared mentally as it was not going to be an easy wicket and I was ready to do the dirty work, ready to be challenged and get the job done for the team.”
Rahul would also talk up his IPL team-mate Arshdeep Singh, who had a superb first spell in the Powerplay to stun South Africa.
“He’s growing with each game and with each outing he gets better, he is somebody who has a big heart and I have seen him in close quarters while playing in the IPL. This season what he did for his franchise was phenomenal and to be the number one death bowler in a team which has Rabada speaks highly of him.”
“We always want a left-arm seamer and it is great to have someone like Arshdeep,” he said before signing off.