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Match Analysis

'Felt like I never left' - SKY rains down on RCB to dispel the doubts

The Wankhede crowd found their full voice as Suryakumar walked to the crease, and they weren't left disappointed

S Sudarshanan
S Sudarshanan
12-Apr-2024
It was hard to make out if the roar was for Royal Challengers Bengaluru finally picking up a wicket. After conceding 101 in just 52 balls, they had managed to see the back of Ishan Kishan, who blazed away to 69 off just 34 balls in Mumbai Indians' chase of 197. Those in the Sachin Tendulkar Stand and the Dilip Vengsarkar Stand were jumping with joy, and only when the cheers grew louder after the incoming batter's name was announced at the Wankhede Stadium, did the reason become clear: it was for Suryakumar Yadav.
If Rohit Sharma is Mumbai cha raja (king of Mumbai), Suryakumar is Surya dada (elder brother) for the MI fans. "Ekach vaada, Surya dada [Only one promise, Surya brother!]" chanted a group of fans in their twenties as they made their way to the Wankhede Stadium. "SKY for the sky" read a poster by another supporter. The lynchpin of Mumbai's batting commanded support even if he had played only one match - for a two-ball duck - since returning from a four-and-a-half-month injury layoff.
It was only a four-ball wait before SKY opened up. He flicked Akash Deep, playing his first IPL match as a capped India cricketer, through midwicket before pummeling him for three sixes - including his trademark supla shot over deep-backward square leg.
Suryakumar did not spare the experienced Reece Topley either, taking 18 with three fours and a six in the bowler's third over. Having seen Suryakumar's on-side prowess earlier, Topley's attempt to bowl wide from his hitting arc was an understandable ploy. But the Mumbai batter managed to get under one such length ball and carved it over deep point for half a dozen.
Suryakumar has done all of it before - accessing parts of the ground that seemed near impossible. But after being sidelined for a lengthy period - first with an ankle injury and then because of sports hernia - the only question was if he could get his touch back. But in smashing a 17-ball half-century - the joint second-fastest for MI in the IPL history - in a high-octane chase, Suryakumar dispelled any doubts in a flash.
"When the tournament started, I was mentally here but physically [at the National Cricket Academy] in Bangalore," Suryakumar told the host broadcaster after the match. "When I came here, it felt like I never left. When chasing 200 at Wankhede, it is important to know the dew factor. If it is there, then you have to take your chances.
"I just try to play the field, I have practised these shots a lot. It is just in my muscle memory - I go and enjoy it. The slice over point for six I enjoyed the most."
Suryakumar's routine during rehab was "boring" but as he inched closer to returning to competitive cricket, his motivation increased. He is never one to shy away from the spotlight and wanted his comeback to be a bit different. With an impactful knock as Impact Player on Thursday, he ensured that his return to the runs did not fly under the radar.
Suryakumar enjoyed every bit of his one hour on the field. After his dismissal, he had a wide smile as he acknowledged the crowd - helmet off and arms aloft - as he made his way off the ground. He knew that a second win was assured for Mumbai after his 19-ball 52 - that featured five fours and four sixes - brought down the asking rate to just a shade over three per over.
It was almost like last year when Suryakumar's 35-ball 83 had helped Mumbai overhaul RCB's 199 for 6 at the same venue without breaking much sweat. This time, Mumbai won with 27 balls to spare.
"When he scored his fifty, I told him, 'Welcome back'," captain Hardik Pandya said. "It's always good to have Surya in your team. I have been opposition captain to him, and it is pretty tough to set the field, because he hits places where I have never seen many batters hit."
After the game, Suryakumar revealed that he never faces Jasprit Bumrah in the nets because "he either breaks my bat or my foot!" Suryakumar versus Bumrah last played out in the open in IPL 2017, when the former was with Kolkata Knight Riders.
It is a loss for fans that they may never get to watch these two superstars pitted against each other at the peak of their powers.

S Sudarshanan is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @Sudarshanan7