Legendary Australian cricketer Ricky Ponting has called India middle-order batter Suryakumar Yadav a trailblazer, who could inspire a new breed of players to emulate his style of play and take T20 cricket to “another level” globally.
Suryakumar, 32, was recently named the ICC Men’s T20I Cricketer of the Year after he became only the second batter in the world to score 1000-plus runs in a calendar year in the shortest format of the game.
Surya scored two centuries and nine half-tons on way to amassing 1,164 runs in 2022, only second behind Pakistan’s Mohammad Rizwan who leads the charts with 1,326 runs in 2021.
“I think innovation-wise, skill-wise, I haven’t seen a better player (than Suryakumar) in the game,” Ponting told ICC on Friday.
“What it’s going to do as well, a lot of other players are going to try and do the things he’s doing and it’s going to add another level of skill to the T20 game all around the world.
“Someone said during the IPL this year (2022), there are going to be guys who are going to try and do exactly the same as what Surya’s doing, and that’s going to be great for the game,” added the Australian great.
Surya’s 1,100-plus runs last year came in 31 T20Is at an astonishing strike rate of 187.43 and an average of 46.56, which also propelled him to the top of the ICC Men’s T20I Batting Rankings.
Ponting also called the India cricketer as the greatest innovator in the shortest version, comparing his style of batting with South African white-ball specialist AB de Villiers and former Australian wicket-keeper Adam Gilchrist.
“He’s probably doing it better than anyone’s ever done it right now. We talk about players that can score 360 degrees … some of the shots he’s hitting back behind the wicket-keeper and over fine leg are just remarkable.” Ponting said he noticed Surya’s innate talent a few years back in the IPL where he was making flicking the ball over deep-backward square look so easy.
The former skipper added that the batter has taken his stroke-play to another level and is playing some really audacious shots like flicking short balls for sixes over the wicket-keeper’s head.
“Five or six years ago, he started doing that (innovating) a lot in the IPL. He was very good at flicking the ball over deep-backward square and getting the ball over fine-leg,” Ponting said.
“Surya’s now been able to hit short balls on the way up and flick short balls over the keeper’s head and they’re going for six, not just for four.” Ponting said that initially he thought Suryakumar would never touch such heights, but his work ethics and strenuous regimen have resulted in his success.
The cricketer scored the third-most runs at the T20 World Cup — 239 — in Australia, which was only behind Virat Kohli (296) and the Dutchman Max O’Dowd (242).
He then continued the good work in the T20I series against New Zealand and Sri Lanka to climb to the second-highest T20 batting rating ever recorded — 908 points.
“I didn’t think he’d get to the level he’s got to, to be quite honest,” Ponting said.
“He’s worked as hard as he has — you can probably tell by his body shape. He’s probably fitter than he’s ever been, being around the Indian set up with the likes of Kohli and Shreyas Iyer and these guys, who are exceptionally fit young guys.”