Match Analysis

The big test that awaits Suryakumar Yadav in Lucknow

A lot of his runs in this IPL have come at the Wankhede. Can he be just as destructive when he travels away from home?

Abhimanyu Bose
Suryakumar Yadav got a lot of attention from the fans - understandably - and reciprocated too, Mumbai Indians vs Gujarat Titans, IPL 2023, Mumbai, May 12, 2023

Suryakumar Yadav has an awesome record playing in front of his home crowd in Mumbai  •  Associated Press

Suryakumar Yadav is about to face a serious test. Playing away from home.
On Friday, he put Gujarat Titans to the sword with a sublime century - his first in the IPL - as Mumbai Indians consolidated their place in the top four of the IPL 2023 league table.
It was an atypical Suryakumar innings for the first 34 deliveries he faced, before he brought out the full range of his audacity to light up the Wankhede.
In the 19th over, he took on Mohammed Shami and played perhaps the most incredible shot of them all.
This is how it was described on ESPNcricinfo's ball-by-ball commentary: "I don't have a name for this shot. Fullish, angling in towards off stump, and SKY steps away to the leg side to create room, to play what starts off as a lofted off drive, except he uses his wrists to slice underneath the ball and hit it over short third. Over short third! For six."
It was completely intentional. The commentators argued whether it was or not. Replays showed Suryakumar opening the face of the bat at the last moment. He can do wonders, when there is pace on the ball, but there is unlikely to be a lot of that in Mumbai's next game in Lucknow.
With its slow, low, turning pitches, the Ekana Stadium is the least friendly venue for run-scoring this season. Batters this season have averaged a mere 17.46 and have been striking at 112.22.
Now Suryakumar is no ordinary player. More to the point, he is on a hot streak - 413 runs in his last seven innings at a strike rate of 202, including five fifty-plus scores.
Even so, much of his success this season has come at home. In fact, after scoring just 1 in Mumbai's first game at the Wankhede this season against Chennai Super Kings, Suryakumar's lowest score there has been the 43 against Knight Riders.
There is no doubt that he loves batting at the Wankhede, and the Wankhede showed on Friday just how much they love him back.
Suryakumar's century, which he termed as one of his best knocks in the format, saw him shoot up into the top five in the run charts. But that's only half the story. Here's the really cool bit. No one who has faced more than 50 balls in IPL 2023 has a higher strike rate than his 190.83.
Former Australia allrounder Tom Moody, speaking on ESPNcricinfo's T20 Time:Out, said that the only way to describe Suryakumar was "genius".
"It's the only thing that can really describe his batting in this format of the game," Moody said. "He is just a pure genius. The way he manipulates the fields, the way he conducts where he wants the bowlers to bowl, the pressure he puts the bowlers under, the pressure he puts the opposition captains under... He's got them in the palm of his hands."
His genius will be put to test in Lucknow, given he has not been particularly great when he's had to travel away from Mumbai.
At Chepauk, a venue similar in character with Lucknow, in that it too supports spin, Suryakumar made 26 before being bowled by Ravindra Jadeja. Facing slow bowling isn't really a weakness with him but there is no doubt he prefers pace on the ball. Since 2020, Suryakumar strikes at 136.13 against spin in the IPL, while against pace his strike rate is 174.01 in that time period.
In a game that will be crucial to Mumbai's qualification for the playoffs, up against Amit Mishra, Ravi Bishnoi and Krunal Pandya, who have reaped the rewards of their home ground suiting their bowling, Suryakumar will face his toughest test since his dream run began this season.

Abhimanyu Bose is a sub-editor with ESPNcricinfo