Suryakumar Yadav just wants to be Suryakumar Yadav

India batter shrugs off Bevan comparisons as he works on becoming whatever his team needs

Shashank Kishore
Shashank Kishore
Suryakumar Yadav laughed off the suggestion that "people had started labelling him as a finisher", just like the former Australia batter.
"Sir, I've just played five games. Or maybe seven," he responded with a grin. "Let me remain Suryakumar Yadav (laughs). Whatever number I can bat, whatever situation I am in, if I can make the team win from there, that will be my focus. But I want to be fearless as I am, always."
On Sunday, Suryakumar walked in after India had lost 3 for 31 following a bruising batting performance from Rohit Sharma in an 84-run opening stand. They had just lost Virat Kohli and Rohit in the same over. Then, three overs later, Ishan Kishan holed out to deep square leg.
Between the two dismissals, Suryakumar received friendly banter from his IPL mate. "Show us those flicks you play in the IPL," Kieron Pollard is believed to have said.
"I didn't get a chance to sledge him though, he was in a hurry," Suryakumar laughed.
When in full flow, Suryakumar can be a head turner. He has a 360-degree game that is a result of years of trying. It has helped that he is no longer the insecure "always having to prove a point" cricketer, riddled with self-doubt and anger.
Now he can arch back and ramp the ball over third man if it's short. Walk across and scoop it over short fine if its full. Even hook his first ball for six, like he did off Jofra Archer in international cricket.
From a generic IPL and domestic player who was yo-yo'ed up and down the batting order since 2011, Suryakumar has conditioned his game to the extent that he is seen as a middle order lynchpin for whichever team he plays for.
He can shun the itch to be inventive. He can temper his game to milk runs. He can stem early damage, play the middle-order enforcer, or take on the mantle of a finisher. With India having lost four wickets, a combination of these traits was on show as he made a polished unbeaten 34 to kill the chase alongside debutant Deepak Hooda.
"Things were really clear, he (Hooda) has played a lot of domestic cricket, so he knew the situation really well," Suryakumar said. "We were having little conversations and setting little goals (in our partnership). His confidence was spot on though."
Suryakumar's composure and reading of situations have made him more complete. So complete that he is now seen as a back-up middle order batter in the Test squad, apart from being a regular in the white-ball set up.
It has been a remarkable transformation for the 31-year-old, who two years ago began to wonder if the India cap would bypass him. But he didn't lose hope. "I strongly feel I'm going to push the door this year," he said and that's what he did, at every available opportunity.
Having made the batting switch, he is now regularly turning his arm over in the nets too. India are looking for a top-six batter who can also bowl. Suryakumar may not be there yet but he's never been one to miss a chance to contribute to his team.
"I'm bowling in the nets," he said with a smile. "Whenever the opportunity comes, I'll be ready. Whenever they feel they can use me, I'm always available."

Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo