The IPL's cap of four foreign players for each team has been of much benefit for those Indian players short of exposure at the international level, particularly in this edition. Deccan Chargers, however, had been let down in that regard, until T Suman stepped up against Bangalore. His unbeaten 78 was a refreshing change for a side that has relied excessively on foreign players, especially in the batting; two of those, Adam Gilchrist and Andrew Symonds, guided him during the course of decisive partnerships that broke Deccan's five-match losing streak and dealt a blow to Bangalore's hopes of a semi-final berth.
Suman's promotion to No.3 on Thursday put an end to the embarrassment Deccan have endured as other teams have produced match-winning stars. While Suman's record prior to this game was modest, the rest of the Indian contingent in the Deccan squad, except for Rohit Sharma and Pragyan Ojha who've played for India this year, had done little of note. Anirudh Singh, Monish Mishra and Venugopal Rao average 7.40 between them; on the other hand, Kedar Jadhav and Pradeep Sangwan have boosted Delhi Daredevils; Saurabh Tiwary and Ambati Rayudu have been finds for Mumbai Indians. Naman Ojha, Manish Pandey and M Vijay are established openers for their respective teams.
Suman's role had been to play quickfire cameos in the lower middle-order, but today, in the presence of Gilchrist and Symonds, he dropped anchor. He began in streaky fashion, with a couple of edges off cross-batted strokes, but when his vastly experienced partners took the lead in clearing the field, Suman proved adept at churning the singles, while dealing harshly with length deliveries. The time-outs, and the resulting consultations with the think-tank also played a part.
Gilchrist took off in the eighth over of Deccan's chase, smacking Jacques Kallis for 15, and initiated a surge in the scoring rate that had, until then, hovered around six an over. Suman faltered in the next over against Anil Kumble, slogging at a short delivery and getting an inside edge just wide of the stumps. Following the time-out at the end of that over, Suman rarely played an irresponsible shot.
He picked out the straight boundary and the gap between long-on and deep midwicket for the big shots, and used the rest of the spread-out field to rotate the strike. Time and again, the Bangalore bowlers pitched the ball up and Suman opened up. Vinay Kumar and Kumble were swung for sixes over midwicket, while Dale Steyn was struck neatly over his head for four. In the game-turning 17th over, preceded by another time-out, Suman joined Symonds in Deccan's final flourish, hammering a straight six off Praveen Kumar. The bursts from his partners didn't overshadow Suman, who bettered Gilchrist and almost matched Symonds in his share of each partnership. "Gilchrist spoke to me a lot between overs and told me to keep my patience and watch the ball, which really helped me a lot," Suman said. "Not only on the field, but off the field too."
Suman's effort broke the slump, but Deccan need more stability in their batting, with Gilchrist yet to strike big and Herschelle Gibbs sitting out for the last two games. Last year, when Deccan won the tournament, any weaknesses in the batting from the local players had been offset by a strong bowling performance led by RP Singh, who took 23 wickets and won a place in India's team for the 2009 World Twenty20. "We don't like to differentiate between Indian and international or young and old players, but we all had to lift up a bit," Gilchrist said after today's game. "The young guys coming to the party is a really important thing for all of us." Suman has only partly addressed those concerns, the rest have to step up.
Siddhartha Talya is an editorial assistant at Cricinfo