Suryakumar Yadav may well be India’s trump card at the T20 World Cup in Australia. The maverick batter opens up about his mindset and approach while batting in T20s in a freewheeling chat.
You had to wait for your India cap for almost a decade since making your First-Class debut. And now you’re going to play your second World Cup in less than 12 months…
I am really excited and really looking forward to it. Two World Cups in 12 months…. What I couldn’t achieve last time, I will try and do that this time around.
After being in the ‘so-near-yet-so-far phase’ for a long time, now that you have been with India’s squad for most of the last two years, how has the mindset changed?
I have become clearer about my goals, my plans, how I go about it with my game, what the team wants from me, the kind of impact I can have on a game with my bat... These are the things I am very clear about right now. It’s helping me really well.
How has your training regime — skills and fitness — changed?
It has come a long way. I have started training much more, have started a good diet with a good nutritionist, so everything is on track right now with my game.
AB de Villiers would hardly practise his innovative shots while batting in the nets. How do you go about it?
I actually try to follow the same mantra. I have also heard the same from many players who played with him at RCB, that whenever he bats in the nets, he tries to bat normally, he just tries to watch the ball closely and does nothing fancy. So, I also actually started doing that and kept it (risky shots) safe for the matches.
ALSO READ - Suryakumar rises to No. 2 in T20I batting rankings
Is it all instinctive or you plan to play certain strokes against a certain bowler during the pre-match analysis?
The planning is always on — what you want to do on the ground, what shots you will play. I always keep thinking about it. Before going in to bat or a day before, while visualising with the bowlers who I am going to be up against. So, the planning is always on. If you don’t plan, you tend to get confused while going in to bat. I like to plan. Before going in to bat, I sit down for five minutes, make my plan and then go about it.
In less than two years, you have earned more than 40 caps. Was there a particular moment when you, sort of, felt you have cemented your place in the side?
I never feel like that, actually. I never feel I have cemented my place. Every game I have played, I feel like it’s my last game. But at the same time, I never shy away from being myself, because at the age that I made my debut, I had nothing to think about. I had played a good amount of First-Class cricket, I had played decent IPL games, had competed well. I can never take my place for granted. If I feel I have cemented my place and all, it’d make me complacent, so I will never do that.
In these two years, you have worked primarily with two head coaches and two captains. Can you distinguish their captaincy and coaching methods?
It has actually been almost the same. Both the sets have been particular about following the routines and processes, so it has almost been the same. The team has always worked towards one goal, so there hasn’t been a drastic change. It’s going really well.
Let’s go further back. Would you say that the second stint with Mumbai Indians, starting 2018, was the turning point of your career?
Yes, we can say that. It was a breakout season, I scored 500-odd runs. I got the opportunity to bat higher up the order. And later on, everything completely changed. We can certainly say that it was a game-changing year.
Since then, be it the IPL or international cricket, you have batted all over the batting order in T20s. Can you talk about the adjustments and different approaches required to bat at different positions in T20s?
I think it’s not that difficult. You just have to adapt to the situation. If you think too much like my batting number changes, so my style changes, then… With the way things are going, you have to be very flexible right now to bat at any number. You just have to adapt to the situation. You need to do what is required at that situation. If you go in the seventh over, you need to understand what you need to do. And in the end, if you go in at No. 7, you need to score a 12-ball 25 and you need to know how to make it happen. It’s not that difficult but you have to be very clear with your plan. Things get easy if you really do that.
Do you think too much is made out of batting positions in T20s?
If you see right now, people have become very flexible to bat at any number. It isn’t an issue now in T20s. As I said, you have to adapt to whatever suits the team best.
What’s your preferred batting position?
I love batting at all the positions and currently I am loving batting at No. 4, because I feel it challenges me a lot. I am really enjoying it.
Last year’s World Cup in UAE turned out to be far from memorable for the team. How confident and desperate are you to turn the tide this time?
There’s no desperation, but it there have been amazing preparations that we have been doing over the last six months. We are going really well. We also want to turn the tide around but there is not a lot of desperation. When you get desperate, you forget your processes, you forget your routine. Then something can go up and down. Instead, you follow the same, what you have been doing over the last few months and the results will come your way.
You are 32. Can you give us the targets you have set for yourself for the next few years?
I haven’t set any targets. I just go with whatever comes my way. Yes, I even love to follow certain processes and routines about my game, be it match-days or off-the-field preparations. If I think too far ahead, I will miss a lot of things up for grabs in present. I don’t think too far ahead.
Have you made peace with being considered as a limited-overs’ specialist or do you aspire to be a Test cricketer?
Obviously. That’s the first format that I started liking and that’s the first place where I started playing at domestic level, the Ranji Trophy.
When I made by Ranji debut for the Mumbai team, it was red-ball cricket and that’s where I got the recognition from. It’s always there at the back of my mind. I always love to play all the three formats for Mumbai, and hopefully I will soon do the same for India as well.