Watch the shot from Suryakumar Yadav that made Daren Sammy go ‘My Goodness!’

They call it the shot of the series: Suryakumar Yadav’s thunderous punch across covers for a six. It was quite a bit. As former West Indies captain Daren Sammy, a batsman who knows a thing or two about whipping up big sixs, says, “what did (the bowler) Alzari Joseph do?”

Not much. It was a long delivery coming in on the stump, but Surya was not content to beat it for a few. He wasn’t in slog mode either – he rarely is. Most of his shots come from the calculated shape-holding T20 batting book. Hold the form, straighten the torso, extend the arms fully, aim to balance even at that tipping point — and wham. Usually it comes down to the way he positions himself in a shot.

This one was incredible, even for such a batsman. The first thing I noticed was that no width was offered: the ball shot at the out and middle stump. The old saying of the bowler: hit the top of the off. Well, even that is now in the trash in this T20 era.

Surya is a bit open in the stance he often does: the back foot parallel to the crease, and almost towards the stump. The front leg points down. Now, just before Joseph’s delivery reaches the field, the front leg raises a little and presses down. That was all he needed for the power and the positioning.

So why did he go for this shot? Maybe the length. Certainly not the line. Either he picked up the long way early or anticipated it, Surya seemed ready. Its length allowed it to get up, down and up. He had to get the minor adjustments right to get his body in the right position. And so, once the front leg lifts and presses, it’s mostly still.

He can’t afford to move his body in line or his right or do much for a tiny, tiny move could upset the whole apple cart: the balance would fail, momentum would be lost, power would weaken and the trajectory may also be affected. It can go straight up and release no cover or the man in the deep.

And so he springs into action, but doesn’t move much. The arms go under the ball and he punches vigorously upwards. The expanse of the arms and holding the pole isn’t just for aesthetics or ego. It’s what it takes to make the trajectory, the power and the ball go the distance. They call it holding the shape. As he reaches the peak of his arms, the upright torso holds the form and the right foot moves almost a bit to hold the pose longer for that moment. For balance. That’s all. The white ball was thrown from outside the extra cover.

Improving his offside

In 2018 or 19, there was a talk that Surya was more comfortable on the leg side – in regards to big strokes, at least. There was also a conversation within the Mumbai Indians, led by their coach Mahela Jayawardene, about improving his strike rate.

Surya once explained to The Indian Express what happened. “In 2019 he has [Jayawardene] sat with me and explained to me… what to do in the power play and what to do after the power play. It was clear that he wanted me to be a better cricketer at the time and contribute more by being a little smarter. So he just sat with me and he was like it rests all on you. He only said one thing: when you’re batting after the power play, just try to punch a lot of holes, take twos, run fast between wickets and the batting speed will be great too. So I just did the same.”

There were no specific conversations he recalled with Jayawardene about the offside, but he had decided to improve his all-round game. “Yes, I knew I had to work a lot again because people come up with other plans. So I had to cover all the areas or tick all the boxes, which I couldn’t do in the first year with my team,” Suryakumar Yadav had told this newspaper.

From asking to take singles and twos to trying to cover all areas, he has now become one of the best T20 batsmen in the world. This inclusion in the Caribbean, in a series likely to be soon forgotten, would linger in the mind. The quality of the recording is best reflected in the disbelief in Sammy’s voice. When you get respect from a guy who’s been there and done that, you know you’re on the right track. Suryakumar Yadav certainly is.

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