Why did Suryakumar Yadav succeed when Rohit and Kohli failed at the bouncy Perth?

There was one crucial difference to his way from his team-mates. They tried to get on top of the bounce, which was a losing cause against the steep tennis-ball bounce that Perth threw up. Suryakumar got under the ball, and side of it, at unique angles, to tap the bouncing ball further along. The weight on the back foot. Sometimes tapping it up and over. It needed special skills, eyes, hands, wrists, and a big heart to do it his way. It was also very smart.He doesn’t ride the bounce in a conventional way, trying to get the bat and hands over the ball; instead he is like a beach swimmer, using tall waves to float away.

Exhibit A: Rohit Sharma’ dismissal

Sometimes, it’s best to appreciate a method through failures of other methods.

In his brief stay, that included a hooked six, Rohit Sharma’s way was to back away to the leg side, away from the line. The hook six was an example of his success but the key was that it was a hook and not a pull or a swipe. That Rabada ball was so high – around head- that Rohit didn’t look to get on top of the bounce. He was already backing away, and decided to hook it up and over backward square-leg. Safe shot. The mistake would soon after, though.

He again tried backing away to the leg side and punched a kicker from back of length on the up down the track. But because of the steep bounce, he couldn’t keep it down and almost gave a return catch to Rabada.

Then came the dismissal ball. He backed away again, this time to Lungi Ngidi, but also moved forward a bit, making it even more difficult for him. And this time, unlike the six, he tried to ride the bounce of the short ball, trying to hit it flatter over the on side, and unsurprisingly miscued it straight up.

Exhibit B: Virat Kohli’s dismissal

It was a high bouncer from Ngidi and Kohli too went for the traditional riding-the-bounce pull. It would have come off at Melbourne, where the pitch offered pace but not this steep bounce, but not here at Perth. It flew off the top edge. Hardik Pandya too would fall similarly, offering more evidence to the failed approaches.

Suryakumar Yadav’s way

He hits into unique places with very powerful wrists. He still comes from the same solid base that is a non negotiable but with a clearly different approach. If one were to list out its mechanics – the various terms like ‘set-up at crease’, ‘shape’, ‘unweighting of bat’, ‘correct position’, can be used.

Not that there is an absence of a naturalness, but that constructed idea of modern-day T20 batting has seeped in so naturally.

Exhibit C: The six against Ngidi in the 15th over

That six over backward square-leg is a good approach point to dive into his technique. A slight knee flex, the back feet point to point, and the front foot is already opened up, feet facing down the pitch.

The weight is on the back foot – none of the other top-order batsmen moved back as Surya would.

That approach also allows Suryakumar the perfect base to play that half-pull half-swat to backward square-leg. There is no attempt to hit it down or pull it conventionally.

Suryakumar shuffles a touch to his right, gets on the off-stump or even outside line, crouches into an almost sitting position, almost helps the ball up and over behind square on the leg. As if he were flinging a towel, a man stole onto his left shoulder.

Exhibit D: Uthappa’s famous six off Lee

Rohit was moving outside leg and trying to drag the ball from there to the leg side. Once he got into that position, the safer way was Surya’s tennis-forehand shot off Kagiso Rabada.

Or for that matter, Robin Uthappa’s famous six off Brett Lee in Australia. It deserves a place in Indian folklore of famous sixes against pace by Indians. He backed away to the leg side, much like Rohit tried, and Lee’s bouncer was pretty high, but Uthappa wasn’t looking to drag-pull it over midwicket. Instead, he thumped it with a flat bat over the left of sight screen.

Kohli was neither forward nor really back, a bit like Babar, and wasn’t able to handle the extra bounce. Incidentally, that Ngidi ball didn’t bounce as much but from the position Surya was in, he could have easily done the same to a higher ball as well.

Surya’s pull was a cracking good shot – of imagination, dare, but also a carefully-constructed technique. Suryakumar almost hops to that back foot, shifting weight more decisively, and then holds his crouched position as the hands come across to do the rest.

It’s not a mere letting go of oneself, like in the olden days, but a carefully thought-out crafted hitting. One can almost break his back-foot-crouch-lap-pull at various points, deconstruct it, and re-assemble it – like an animation artist might. For Suryakumar Yadav, it’s the coming together of those parts that make the whole greater.

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