'It's time I start winning games on my own'

Suryakumar Yadav is often referred to in the maidans as one of the most maverick captains Mumbai has had. Almost two years after resigning just before he was to be sacked as captain mid-way through the 2014-15 season, Yadav described his batting capabilities and recalled his controversial captaincy stint in a chat with Sportstar.

Suryakumar Yadav doesn't believe captaincy impeded his batting.   -  Vivek Bendre

He has been a member of an IPL-winning team. He has all the innovative strokes to be a hit among youthful fans of cricket. He also has other ingredients to be a hit for the ‘cool’ generation – love for tattoos and puppies. He has been a part of multiple Ranji Trophy triumphs for domestic stalwarts Mumbai.

Still, Suryakumar Yadav - Surya for his mates - is often referred to in the maidans as one of the most maverick captains Mumbai has had.

Almost two years after resigning just before he was to be sacked as captain mid-way through the 2014-15 season, Yadav recalled his controversial captaincy stint in a chat with Sportstar.

Excerpts:

Reasonably good season so far?

For the team, yes. For me, it has just started.

What delayed the kick-off for you?

I was a bit confused initially with what my role is going to be with this team. But later on as one or two matches went by, I started thinking about my game. I watched all my innings and figured how I got out in all the innings till the last game. I think I can play both roles in the team. If my team requires me to stay there for a session or two, I can do that as well. And if the team needs quick runs, I can do that as well. I mean, I can put my gears up any time. I realised my potential in the last 15-20 days when I sat down with my captain, my coach and my father as well. I was told that I can obviously score at run a ball and even if the situation of the team is bad, I can play in that vein whenever I am required.

In that sense, would it be fair to say you were confused about the role for the last couple of years?

Not at all confused. Last two-three years, Shreyas Iyer came on. Before that, I was trying to play my natural game without thinking about anything, but slowly as the years passed by, I started thinking more about my game – how I need to tackle things, if there are reasonably good sides, how I need to tackle them and take my innings ahead. I think since the last game I have been following the same thing and I have been watching my batting again and again from day one. I think this is the best thing I can do for the team because I have realised in the last three-four years that when my team required me, I was not there except a few games. It’s time that I started winning games on my own for Mumbai.

How did the realisation dawn upon you?

My father has been always telling me to try and bat long whenever you can. Then I used to think, ‘what is he trying to say’? I kept wondering whether he wanted me to dominate or he wanted me to stay there and play a long innings, so after playing two years for Mumbai I started realising what I have to do and I had a chat with Aditya Tare and the coach as well, Chandrakant Pandit. I started talking to Tare after the game at Palam.

In the first innings, we were two wickets down and I had a partnership with Akhil Herwadkar, so Tare told me, ‘It is high time you take up the responsibility because I have seen you play for the last three-four years and you are good at doing both the roles. When the team requires you to score faster, you can do that as well but if early wickets have gone down, the team requires you to put your head down’.

After that, I sat in my room thinking more and more about all this and then that’s how that realisation came. Same thing helped me in the last game.

What sort of an impact did the short captaincy stint have on you?

As a cricketer, it was a good responsibility on my shoulders to take the team ahead. When I went into the shoes of being the captain, then I realised it wasn’t an easy job for the players who have come in and led Mumbai in the past. It was a good thing that I started leading a team but maybe I got too excited at times, you can say that I was not able to take it ahead, so I had to step down.

In hindsight, would you say you were not prepared to lead the side?

It’s not like that. I had led Mumbai in the one-dayers, so it was not a sudden or something surprising for me. I knew that we had done well in the one-dayers, so I may just get a chance to lead Mumbai in the Ranji Trophy, but it was a first experience. Not a good one, though. But it's a learning process.

There were a few ego clashes during those two months. How long did it take for you to sort it out with a few individuals in the squad?

I realised [the need to avoid ego clashes] the very next year because I thought we all have to play together as a unit and my aim was always to be a part of Mumbai team and the team should win Ranji Trophy. Then I realised, whatever it is, let us just keep it outside the boundary and when you are on the field, you should play together, focus together and those [differences] are not [valid]. Then I started neglecting all those negative energies and with time, thankfully, everything passed away.

How much has that changed off the field?

It has been very good off the field. Since the last two years, as you know, we have been doing a lot of team activity, team bonding sessions and we try and stay together as long as possible. That’s the main thing and a very important thing for the team – to understand each other on and off the field. It helps us figure out all the positives and negatives; helps us understand an individual better. We know who is comfortable where and with what and thankfully for the last couple of years, we have been gelling really well since our coach Chandrakant Pandit came into relevance, so it’s a very good thing for the team.

So as of now, there are absolutely no bitter feeling any longer about what happened two seasons ago?

Nothing. No bitter feelings whatsoever. Whatever happened in the past was a learning process for all of us. Everyone was young but now that we have sorted everything out. Life is always about negatives and positives.

Looking back, I would say it’s a good thing; I would say whatever happened, happened for the good. It taught all of us a lot of things about life but the most important lesson we learnt was we should let bygones be bygones and move ahead in a positive way and work towards one common goal.

Did the captaincy stint pull you back as a batsman?

It didn’t pull me back actually, but there was certainly a responsibility on my shoulders to perform. At the same time, I knew that I had to go out there and express myself because I have always been doing that and I have always believed that whatever you do in the nets, you have to translate that in the match. I remember that season started well for me against J & K; sure [it wasn’t] a good game for the team, for me, it was a good game from a personal point of view. In between, the rough patches came when I stepped down from the captaincy. The season didn’t end well for me but it didn’t affect me that much because I knew if I start coming into my groove again, it will be difficult for the opponents.

Do you think you are a good man manager?

Yes, I think so. Everyone needs guidance at every point of life. It’s a good thing to have good people around who can tell what right and wrong you are doing. There is no harm in walking up to anyone – coach, captain or any player in the team – to discuss what you feel about them. Even now, I go up to players like Akhil Herwadkar, Shreyas Iyer, Vijay Gohil whenever they are bowling to me in the nets and we discuss the mistakes I am doing, so I would say I am a good man manager.

But you tended to lose your temper during captaincy stint, right?

Sometimes I used to yell at a player straight up. I have always thought whatever happens on the ground, we should leave it there and then. If you take it off the field, there’s no point on it, so whatever feelings I had on the field – whether it’s anger, frustration – I expressed it right away. We are good friends off the field, even on field. But if I am the captain, I mean strict business.

Do you remember having hurt anyone and then regretting it later?

I think on the ground, if I yell at someone, it’s about their betterment. I don’t regret anything that I would have said to anyone on the field because whatever it was, it was for the sake of the team.

How would you differentiate between Surya of two years ago and now?

I have become calm and slowly getting composed. Trying and learning to stay as calm and normal as possible rather than getting angry. Obviously everyone gets angry but I am trying to manage that and become a better player.

The controversy

# Suryakumar Yadav was appointed as captain for the 2014-15 season, with the team having entered a rebuilding phase.

# After losing to Jammu & Kashmir in the season-opener and conceding the innings lead to Railways, murmurs of Yadav’s spat with some of the team-mates started doin the rounds.

# Many players in the ranks were reportedly unhappy with Yadav’s conduct – on and off the field. That the team was a disjoined lot was evident with the lack of team spirit even on the field.

# During the game against MP, Yadav was reportedly involved in a dressing room altercation with a pace bowler, which was followed by the duo being involved in a bitter spat and he was reprimanded by the MCA office-bearers.

# With the team in danger of facing a possible relegation, Yadav stepped down after six of the eight teams were played. Mumbai staged a remarkable turnaround in the last two games and qualified for the knockouts under the new captain Aditya Tare.

Surya's rise

73: Runs scored by Suryakumar Yadav, born on September 14, 1990, while making his first-class debut, for Mumbai against Delhi in December 2010

46.81: Yadav’s average with the bat in 53 first-class matches so far. He has tallied 3,745 runs

299: Runs Yadav has scored in his last three innings for Mumbai, including 110 versus Railways and 99 and 90 against Uttar Pradesh. With 405 runs in eight innings so far, he is Mumbai’s second-highest run-getter behind Akhil Herwadkar.

4: Number of matches he has featured in for India A, including an unofficial Test and three ODIs versus New Zealand A in 2012-13.

11: Centuries Yadav has scored in first-class cricket so far, 200 against Odisha in 2011-12 being his best.

3: Number of finals he has featured in for his franchises, including the 2011 Champions League Twenty20 (for Mumbai Indians) and the 2014 Indian Premier League andCLT20 (for Kolkata Knight Riders). He ended up on the winning side during the 2011 CLT20 and 2014 IPL finals.