Buzzing with energy, combined with the passion and love for the game of cricket, an aggressive player on field who shows great class and temperament and finally a man who can play all the innovative shots from the book is Mr Dependable: Mumbai’s Suryakumar Yadav. Having scored a great 73 runs in his debut game, there was no looking back for this youngster…Further in the 2011-12 season he notched up 754 runs in 9 matches. He is an attacking right handed batsman and right arm medium pace bowler who plays for Mumbai. On the other hand he plays for KKR in the IPL and has been termed as a great finisher in the short format. He is best remembered for scoring a quick 46 runs in 20 balls Vs Mumbai Indians. CricFit author Binaisha M. Surti met this talented cricketer at the Mumbai Cricket Association, where he spoke to her about his love for the sport followed by an important innings that helped his team win, his experience of playing for India A and how this young Mumbai team still has the Khadoos attitude to go and win games.
How did you develop a love and passion to wards the most sought after game called cricket? Considering the fact that you are a good Badminton player, why did you choose this sport?
Suryakumar: I used to see a lot of people playing in my building and later started watching cricket games on TV. Moreover, whatever sport I played, I always enjoyed it. Talking about Badminton, I never wanted it to be my career that time and did not think about cricket either. I was just enjoying whatever I was doing. Then further, one day when I went to a ground, I saw people in complete white gear. Everyone was disciplined…following their routine warmups till their net sessions. So I started liking something more about this sport. Further too, I continued playing both games i.e. badminton and cricket. Suddenly my father came up to me one day and said that “Son you have to choose one thing, you can’t sail on 2 boats like this. We will support you in whatever game you want to play.” I thought for a long time and then decided that I will play cricket. Then, I went to watch everyone play at the ground since it was a MCA camp. The coach there in the nets came up to us and told my father that he could add me in here. I used to bowl in the nets as I was a fast bowler before. Since I was underage at that time, they told me that after 1 year they would add me in the proper MCA camp. Next year I went for the camp…I used to bat and bowl there. When I saw myself in those white clothes I said to myself “This is it and this is what I want to do.”
You made 73 on your 1st class debut Vs Delhi. How disappointed were you on missing out on a big century?
Suryakumar: Of course I was, since a century on debut is always special. The track on which we played was helping a lot of fast bowlers. I was playing my 1st game that too in the winter season in Delhi. They had a great attack of fast bowlers and when I made my debut I had Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli playing against me. I was a bit nervous going into the game and when I went into bat Rohit Sharma was my partner at the other end. The 1st ball I faced I scored a boundary. He came to me and told me to just carry on playing my natural game. I started enjoying my innings and even when I got out on 73, I was disappointed but on the other hand I was happy that God had given me this opportunity after a long time.
Out of your many wonderful centuries, which has been your most memorable & important knock?
Suryakumar: My most memorable knock has been my double hundred that I got against Orissa. That was a great batting wicket but when I went into bat the situation was different as we were 70/3. At that time the only thing going on in my mind was that I wanted to score a century anyhow. Before that I used to get 70’s and 80’s but was unable to convert them into big scores. I was not thinking about how I will bat or how I should play because I was batting the same way and attacking the bowlers. I played attacking cricket from the 1st ball even in this game. It further turned out to be an important knock because we got an outright victory there.
During your cricketing journey so far, has there been one particular innings (not necessary a century) that you can look back to and say that “This was it that helped my team win.”
Suryakumar: Recently the game against Tamil Nadu which was played from 15th-18th October 2015, I got 58 odd runs as we were chasing 236 on day 4. That will be the knock which I will remember the most because after going down in the first innings, then conceding a lead of 150 runs… further during their 2nd innings we got them out in 95 runs and then went on to chase 236 runs in the end. That is the best and most crucial knock I have played till know. It was just 58 runs but it turned out to be a valuable knock in the end for me and the team, as it helped us win a thrilling contest.
Highlight your experience of walking out in the blue jersey and playing for India A Vs South Africa recently in a T20 game?
Suryakumar: That feeling of wearing the blue jersey is always very special. There is some positive energy in that jersey and you feel it completely. When I went to Delhi, the same day I got my clothes and I wore it around 10 times before sleeping as I was so excited. Though I have played before for India A, wearing this particular blue jersey was even more special. I did not get to bat in the game but playing against one of the best sides in the world is a great experience. We got to learn many things from them. Their fielding, discipline, routines, the body language and their approach towards the game…it was something different. We did get an opportunity to speak to almost every player and they shared some tips too.
You have played domestic cricket, ODIs and T20s. Which format is Suryakumar Yadav best at?
Suryakumar: Seeing my shots a third person will always say that he is fit for ODIs and T20s. But I feel I can excel more in Test cricket because the way I have started batting now especially in this season…the last century I got was very satisfying for me as I took my time, I paced up my innings slowly, then I realised that yes this is the format in which I can get runs quickly and whenever I want to score runs I can do it. Comparing it to the shorter formats, there you cannot take a lot of time. When I get more time to think, then I feel that I can just accelerate whenever I feel like as one always says that I can play any shot in the book. But still I am working on more shots in the nets. But on the other hand I like to be flexible and I am ready to do whatever is required of me in the team.
All cricketers do something or the other before they face a delivery, to easy out the pressure? What do you do?
Suryakumar: Recently till the Punjab game I was not doing anything. There were many thoughts in my mind that what should I do facing the next ball. Then I spoke to Sanjay Manjrekar sir. I told him that in just 4 innings I had managed so many runs. I asked him what to do? He told me that whenever you think of how you have played your last shot you put pressure on yourself. Instead of that when the bowler is running in to bowl to you, just chant in your head “watch the ball” till you have played the ball. I started doing this from the next game and it has helped me a lot and the results are here for everyone to see.
Since currently Mumbai is going through the re-grouping stage as a lot of seniors have retired while some have shifted teams. Have all these factors affected this young team?
Suryakumar: Moving to another state we have missed Wasim Jaffer and Sarfaraz Khan. But cricket never stops as someone has to stand up and shoulder the responsibilities and take the side ahead. The players who are coming in now are trying their best and the team is also doing well. The amount of hard work and determination the team has now…In future Mumbai will be the team to beat. Everyone knows their job well and is taking on various responsibilities as everyone has a different role in the team. Everyone is gelling together not only on field but off it too. We are one unit. If someone misses out on something then automatically another will stand up and fill in.
During this Ranji Trophy season, Mumbai has had a slow start but then bounced back with 2 great wins. Do you think this side has it in them to win the trophy this year?
Suryakumar: I won’t say straight away that we will win the title as it is too far away from us as of now. We are just taking one game at a time. If split further, then we take one day at a time. We are trying to win one session at a time going into games so we can have outright victories. If things go the same way and we continue playing well then there will be a day when we will be holding the trophy.
You were a great leader for Mumbai last season. Why did you suddenly quit as skipper?
Suryakumar: When I started the season I was batting well and everything was going well too. But I think at some point of time I mixed up my aggression along with my poor batting performance and that reflected on other players as well on the field. Every captain wants his players to perform in the way he wants them to… Further, when we went to Tamil Nadu and we lost the game, it disturbed me a lot. I spoke to the authorities and told them that this was not the right time for me. I would be helping the team in each and every way by scoring runs, by giving inputs but I think that I am not prepared completely to take on this job. So I decided that I would help my team in whatever way I can, being or not being captain is not going to affect my performance…So I decided to step down.
You have become a star for KKR from being appointed vice captain to getting the side across the line. Where did you learn to play those innovative shots from?
Suryakumar: I did not practise those shots, I played on my instincts…I had all the shots for the shorter format in my store as well. In T20 format you have to have something different to showcase if you want to be recognised.
How amazing are these youngsters today in the Mumbai set up? Do you all compete with each other?
Suryakumar: Yes we love competing with each other. If we see a player getting out then we criticize him, it is more of constructive criticism because we know that he has talent and can win games. So we would go onto say that if you had stayed on we would have scored more runs. The players who have come up in the last 2 years have been amazing… see Shreyas Iyer he is such a fearless batsman. He came up to me and told me last year when I was skipper, that he would like to bat at no 3. He took on the responsibility very well and went on to score many runs. For me I like to mentor the youngsters because whenever I batted during my early days, senior players used to do the same. This is the history of Mumbai cricket…these youngsters have the Khadoos attitude in them. Whenever there is a crunch situation players stand up and take the responsibility, stick in there and score runs when needed. There are many heroes in the team. Everyone is lifting their game up as the tournament progresses.
Further talking about the competitive spirit amongst us I will share this with you: In the game where Iyer scored 200 runs Vs Punjab. I was batting with him when he got his century. At that time I told him that everyone scores a century, it will be fun to see you get 200. I saw something in his eyes when I got out and I knew that he was determined and would go on to make a great double century. If any other player too would score a good amount of runs in say around 3 games then yes I would say that I will try and get more than you in the next. It is not that kind of aggression you show against opponents, it is team bonding as we charge each other up and help lift one another’s game.
Today according to you, who are your toughest opponents in Ranji Trophy?
Suryakumar: I feel Karnataka because they have been playing very well since the last 3 years. They are definitely the team to watch out for and beat this year. We are all up for it if and when we face them.
What is Chandrakant Pandit like as a coach for team Mumbai?
Suryakumar: He is a disciplined person when it comes to cricket. He wants us to enjoy and play our natural game. He has given all of us our different roles and responsibilities…he believes that if you are wearing the Mumbai jersey then you have to play for the name in front rather than behind. He likes to keep everything very organised. The way he guides everyone on the field is great, off the field he is completely different and likes giving everyone their own space…but when we are on field we have to do our business well. He is always there for us no matter what the situation is…It is amazing to see how well he analyses everything.
Looking at the current scenario of the Indian team, they are looking for an all-rounder. Are you working on other skills as well to be known as someone who does it all or you just want to be termed as a batsman?
Suryakumar: I have been working on my bowling as well since last year because if you have to go and play for India then you have to be an all-rounder. If you are a batsman, you have to bowl and be a brilliant fielder too as it is the need of the hour.
There is an interesting story behind you getting the nick name SKY. Share it with us.
Suryakumar: When I went to KKR for the 1st time, everyone use to call me Suri. Gautam Gambhir started calling me SKY. First I did not figure as to why everyone called me SKY. Then finally, when I thought about it I realized that SKY were the initials of my full name.
“In order to succeed, your desire for success should be greater than your fear of failure.” This is the line that best describes: Suryakumar Yadav who comes across as an extremely dedicated individual when it comes to playing cricket. He has that knack of staying cool and calm under crunch situations and loves taking up the role of an anchor for his team. SKY as he is lovingly called is a complete team man and would go all out to fulfil any responsibility given to him. From being vice- captain of KKR to helping his team cross the line a number of times, this man gives his hundred percent all the time… Moreover he is a great human being who is full of fun. So what initially started off as an interview turned into a fun conversation between us.
Suryakumar is all excited to play the fun round of rapid fire with us:
Biggest inspiration when it came to you choosing cricket: Life
Life as a cricketer: Fun
Your biggest support system: My Father
Something your fans do not know about you: About girlfriends (laughs)
The selfie king of team Mumbai: Shreyas Iyer
(Readers the real selfie king is Surykumar Yadav himself) When we discussed this aspect…we both laughed.
Favourite hobby: Sleeping
Favourite cricketer: Gautam Gambhir
If not a cricketer then what: A Pilot
Cars or bikes: Bikes
Favourite Bike: Harley Davidson
When not playing cricket: I am a joker
Your favourite Cuisine: Chinese
What do Mumbai boys bond over: Movies and dinner
Test cricket is: The best
Is SKY single: No
Favourite cricket ground: Eden Gardens
Are you an animal lover: Yes
How is SKY like off field: I am very calm and composed, love reading and food, I like to spend time with friends, I even like to go for a coffee 100 kms away from Mumbai.
Influence Shah Rukh Khan has on team KKR: He is so involved with everything and he is always there for us. Even if he cannot make it he sends us short video clips to motivate us.
Message to your fans: Keep supporting me and I will continue to entertain everyone.