Mumbai call for flexibility with fit and ready Suryakumar Yadav
Franchise's prolific run-scorer set to return following a recovery from a wrist injury
Suryakumar Yadav is fit and available to play for Mumbai Indians against Rajasthan Royals on Saturday. He had missed the tournament opener due to his ongoing recovery from a hairline fracture he sustained during the home series against West Indies last month.
Suryakumar was at the NCA for rehabilitation for over three weeks in the lead up to the IPL, and is now set to return to action for the first time in over a month.
"Yes, he is [available]," Mumbai's director of cricket operations Zaheer said on Friday. "He has been practicing, so that [him playing] is something which we are all eagerly waiting for."
Next is the question of where he would bat. For India, Suryakumar has most played at No. 5 or No. 6, where he has been one of the designated finishers. At Mumbai, though, he has been a phenomenon at No. 3 since 2018. In this four-year period, he has amassed 1733 runs for them at a strike rate of 137. Out of his 58 innings since, 39 have come at No. 3, where he has hit seven of his 12 half-centuries. Will that mean he continues to play a similar role?
"There is a possibility depending on the opposition we are playing and the conditions we are playing in," Zaheer said on the prospect of Suryakumar being a finisher, like he is with the Indian team. "We might opt for those kind of options, but at the end the decision is pretty much [to] stick with whatever has been working for us and whatever a player can bring in in terms of maximum impact."
Although Suryakumar started at No. 3 for India in his first T20I innings against England in 2021, he has mostly been used at a rung or two lower in his short T20I career so far. Batting at No. 5 means he is likely to play the role of a finisher as opposed to likely batting in the powerplay in the top order, and Suryakumar has taken to it well so far.
Although with only a sample size of two innings at No. 5, he has cracked 34 off 18 balls and 65 from 31 deliveries in the first and third T20Is respectively against West Indies, each time rescuing India from a tricky position.
"To have that kind of a flexibility is always an advantage," Zaheer added. "Tactically you will have that advantage, and that's how we are also looking at it." Meanwhile, Mumbai's wicketkeeper-batter Ishan Kishan too was given the go ahead to take the field against Royals after he was struck on his toe by a Shardul Thakur yorker on Sunday. Kishan was thus forced to go for a scan when Mumbai took the field to defend their total, with Aryan Juyal taking over the gloves. It was only after nine overs that he returned to keep wicket.
"He is absolutely fine," Zaheer said. "We've taken the necessary actions, [it was] just on the precautionary side whatever was required. He has been practicing and training regularly. We had a gap in between, so that obviously helped him as well to prepare for this game. He's fully fit and available."
Himanshu Agrawal is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo