Restrained aggression works for Suryakumar
Flamboyant. That's the best way to sum up Suryakumar Yadav's batting style. So talented is the Mumbai middle-order batsman that he not only has all the shots in the book but can improvise at will too.
However, talent without temperament leads to inconsistent performances. Suryakumar hasn't been an exception to the rule. Over the last two domestic seasons he has time and again thrown away starts with mediocre shot selection. Whether it's been against Vidarbha at Wankhede or Gujarat in Valsad, Suryakumar has gotten himself out more often than bowlers have.
For a talent like Suryakumar, it was unfathomable that he hadn't scored a first-class century since West Zone's Duleep Trophy tie in Valsad in January 2012. Still, the Mumbai selectors and team management were backing him to the hilt, hoping he would translate his talent into performance, just as he had done in 2011-12, his first full season in the Ranji Trophy, which he finished as the tournament's fourth-highest run-getter.
Since then, it had been a slide for Suryakumar. Till Wednesday, that is, when he justified the faith shown in him by scoring a classy 120 to rescue Mumbai on the first day of their quarterfinal against Maharashtra.
Suryakumar had no qualms in admitting he got "carried away" by the success he achieved in his opening season. "After the kind of first season I had, I got carried away a little bit and started playing too many shots at inopportune times," he told ESPNcricinfo. "I was kind of trying to manufacture shots, sometimes pre-determined, rather than playing the ball to its merit."
Experts believe players like Suryakumar sometimes fall into their own trap. "Those who have too many shots to choose from tend to falter in shot selection. Surya I think belongs to the category of players who tend to end up playing to the gallery rather than thinking about the situation of the game," said former India coach Sudhir Naik. "Such players need to realise how and when they need to restrain their instincts. It's purely up to how the individual manages himself."
Suryakumar stressed he has "now completely realised" his game after too much experimentation over the last two years. While going through a lean patch - 58 runs in four innings in 2012-13 followed by 376 at an average of 34 in 13 innings this season - Suryakumar first tried to break the shackles by "over-attacking". Then, at the start of the season, he got stuck in a mindset of "trying to build the innings". The middle ground seemed elusive.
"But then I realised that for me to succeed, I had to back myself and play naturally," Suryakumar said. "At the same time, I needed to keep myself in check."
Suryakumar needed to find a method to achieve this. "Sometime during the season, I started talking to myself, something that I never did earlier," he said. "It helped me enjoy my game more and kept myself from drifting away."
Even during Wednesday's knock, he had a lapse in concentration. Immediately after completing his fifty, he missed the ball after charging down the wicket to left-arm spinner Akshay Darekar but was reprieved by Maharashtra wicketkeeper Rohit Motwani. "I told myself then that I had to start afresh after the chance and it worked," he said. "Earlier in the season, I would have perhaps decided to go into a kind of shell but today I just told myself to enjoy batting with Vinit (Indulkar) and go with the flow and it kind of worked."
Amol Karhadkar is a correspondent at ESPNcricinfo