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Match Analysis

Manufacturing carnage, Suryakumar Yadav style

On Tuesday, in a match India had to win, he seemingly batted without any burden of pressure to script a fairly comprehensive win

Deivarayan Muthu
Suryakumar Yadav cycled through two shots when he faced Akeal Hosein in the second over of India's chase on Tuesday. He had originally got down low to sweep Hosein, but the left-arm fingerspinner spotted it, shortened his length and hid it wide of off stump. Despite one knee on the floor, Suryakumar manufactured enough strength from his upper body to scythe the ball flat and hard over point.
It was a portent for the carnage that was to follow.
Suryakumar went on to smash 83 off 44 balls on a slow, two-paced Providence pitch that was designed to negate most batters. But Suryakumar is not most batters. West Indies' bowling wasn't particularly bad, and the pitch kept getting slower, but he made the attack look pedestrian, and made Providence look like Wankhede.
After Suryakumar had manufactured a boundary on the off side from him, Hosein adjusted his line and attacked the stumps. But Suryakumar was ready with the flat sweep, and picked him away - both in front of and behind square. Just like that, Suryakumar broke Hosein's rhythm.
He then went about dismantling the best-laid plans of the seamers too. Obed McCoy had drawn a mis-hit from Yashasvi Jaiswal when he banged the ball into the pitch, but when he tried to dig one into the pitch against Suryakumar, the batter swivelled back, held his shape for long enough, and hooked the ball over midwicket for four. This forced McCoy to dart an on-pace full one on the stumps, which was launched over his head for six.
But the most extraordinary shot came off Romario Shepherd in the tenth over of the innings. When Shepherd floated a slower offcutter wide of off, Suryakumar walked across off and played a half-scoop and half-sweep to hit the ball over short fine-leg, despite falling on the floor in the process. That shot brought back memories of Rohan Kanhai for Ian Bishop, who was on commentary at the time. Suryakumar's ball-striking in front of square - and gum-chewing swagger - was more Viv Richards than Kanhai, though.
After India kept the series alive with their first win in the T20I series, Suryakumar refused to pinpoint the aspect of the game that pleased him more, and simply put down his 360-degree range to practice.
"I think it was really important to be myself when I went into bat in the powerplay," he said after collecting the Player-of-the-Match award. "That's what the team and the team management demanded from me - to bat as much as possible. I'm very happy with the way things went. I've practiced these strokes a lot when I used to practice back home. I've loved doing that, and I just stick to my game and just express myself whenever I get an opportunity."
With Tilak Varma being a stable presence at the other end, Suryakumar continued to do his thing in an 87-run third-wicket partnership off 50 balls. He eventually holed out in the 13th over, but Tilak ushered India home in their chase of 160 with an unbeaten 49 off 37 balls. Suryakumar, who has also worked closely with Tilak at Mumbai Indians in the IPL, was enthused about Tilak's knock.
"I think we've batted together for a long time now," Suryakumar said. "We both understand how we bat together. It was his day to bat with maturity, and the way he batted gave me a lot of confidence. I told him straightaway, 'Just because you're batting, it's giving me an opportunity to express myself'. So it was a great innings from him at the other end, and a great learning as well."
Having lost back-to-back T20Is, and with the series on the line, Suryakumar conceded that India did feel some pressure in the lead-up to the third game. Perhaps, there was some pressure on him too, considering he wasn't particularly fluent on sluggish pitches away from home in IPL 2023, and on similar tracks during the ODI leg of the West Indies tour.
"It [the pressure] was running in the back of the mind - it's human tendency - but at the same time, we spoke [about it] in the team meeting yesterday," Suryakumar said. "Our captain said it was really important for someone to put their hand up and show some character, and it was the perfect game."
But Suryakumar batted without that burden of pressure on Tuesday. He batted as if the world was at his feet.

Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo