He might not have decimated attacks like Glenn Maxwell or Yusuf Pathan, but Suryakumar Yadav’s cameos and livewire fielding have made seniors stand up and take notice. Inducted into the Kolkata Knight Riders squad ahead of Pepsi Indian Premier League 2014, he has played in all 14 games on the trot for the first time in the tournament and reveled in it.
While his captain is full of high praise for Surya’s skill, acumen and attitude, the batsman has also been acknowledged by Virender Sehwag who said that he might one day play for India. Surya, who has been a good striker of the ball and an agile fielder, said that he has been spending extra time sharpening his fielding skills. The batsman, who hit the match-winning six versus SRH to help KKR seal the second spot in the points table, also said that in that crucial game, he wanted to hit in the ‘V’ and show he can play in that region as well.
During an exclusive chat with IPLT20.com, he elaborated on the training that he has been undergoing, and he also thanked KKR and skipper Gautam Gambhir for backing him. Excerpts from his interview:
Would you say that this is has been your best IPL season so far?
Yes, I feel this is the best time for me in the IPL because playing 14 games in a row in a new team in also something new for me. I am really enjoying the atmosphere over here.
How does the confidence shown in you help your game?
They are backing me really well. I have known this team for the past five years and seen the way they have backed youngsters. They give lot of opportunities to the youngsters. And especially for me, being new to the team and playing under a cool captain, it is great. He has backed me really well since the sessions when we met in Abu Dhabi and I am really enjoying it.
What have you learnt from your skipper Gautam Gambhir?
I have been watching him every now and then for the last five years. On the field he is very aggressive and that is the thing I really like about him. He backs everybody, whether it is a senior or a youngster, and he takes on anyone on the field, which I like. Off the field he is a gem of a person.
Your fielding and catches are getting noticed. You have always been a good fielder, but have you worked on anything else?
When the IPL started, there was only one aspect that I was thinking about, which is fielding because most of the times, like in the last few games, I didn’t get to bat. So, I thought that if I don’t get to bat in a few games, it would be my fielding that will be noticed. Before IPL began, I started working on it more, and when it started, when we were in Abu Dhabi, we were doing a lot of fielding rather than getting into the nets because we knew that if us youngsters are going to bat at No.6 and 7, it is going to be difficult for us to get batting in every game. So, we were working on our fielding with our trainer Adrian and I am very happy that people are saying that I am proving to be a good fielder and taking some catches on the field. It’s just a blessing for me. When you got the chance to bat in a crunch situation against Sunrisers Hyderabad in the previous game, what was going through your mind?
When I was sitting in the dugout, I just said one thing, ‘Till Yusuf Pathan bats, it is not difficult for us to get the target in 15.2 overs (to finish second on the points table).’ But Gautam Gambhir came up to me and he said, ‘Yusuf Pathan is not the only person who is going to get 50 -60 runs, you too have to contribute 10 -15 runs. Only then we can get that.’ I was sitting in the dugout and I was shaking my legs.
Obviously, there were butterflies in my stomach, but it was not a new thing for me because I already had played 13 games. And Wasim Akram sir came to me and asked if I had butterflies in my stomach. And when I said yes, he said, “That’s it, you are going to perform. Just go there, keep calm and just think about one ball at a time, and we will do it in 15.2 overs.” And that’s all I followed. I didn’t think about anything else. It was just that I had to get that total, but at the same time keep calm. What was going through your mind when you hit that six to help your team seal the second spot in league standings?
People have been talking that Surya is playing only square of the wicket. So, I was thinking if I can hit it in the ‘V’, that will be great. And then, to hit a six over mid-on, and that too to a international bowler, was good for me and it helped the team as well, so that was nice.
After an up and down domestic season, had you worked on some areas coming into the IPL?
There were a lot of ups and downs, yes, but I had finished it on a good note, so there was some positive for me coming into the IPL. And in T20 also, I had finished well. Preparing was not that difficult because for last three years, with Mumbai Indians, I had seen people prepare. So, I had a few plans.
For me, fielding and staying fit were the main aspects because for 120 balls you have to run wherever required. So, I was working more on that. I knew I can play 10-12 balls anywhere when I get in. So, I worked on my fielding and high catching because that’s the main thing. I used to practice catching some high balls during the nights because it is difficult to catch under the lights. So, fielding was the main thing I prepared for the IPL.
Tell us about your role in the team?
Before the first game, I stood up and asked my coach about my role here, and he told me, ‘You are a free bird from our side; you can bat however you want to. And whenever you go in, just stick around for five balls, and then, you can play whatever you want.’ I did that in the first match, against MI. When I went in to bat, there were only four balls left. So, I went up to Yusuf Pathan and asked him what I should do – should I take a single and give him the strike and he will go for the big shots or should I go for the hits myself. And he told me that I could go ahead and take the big shots. A lot of confidence was given by him as well. I feel that my role in this team is to get as many runs as possible when I walk in to bat. I have prepared myself while keeping in mind that I would come in to bat between over Nos.17 to 20, which gives me 8 to 10 balls. So, I can score 18 to 20 runs, which will help the team.
How has sharing the dressing room with the likes of Jacques Kallis and others helped you?
Legends are the same everywhere. I watch how they prepare, what they are doing and what their mindset is. In KKR as well, there are a lot of legends. I watch what they do on and off the field. What are they trying to do to be successful? They are humble – that’s the main quality I have learnt from them. And they also prepare really well, whatever the situation.
What has helped you perform?
I have not been thinking too much and I have been taking positives from everyone. They have been backing me really well. Each and every one on the team has been supportive and enjoying each other’s performance. I think that is the main reason for my performance. I will give credit to the entire team. All the Knights have supported me – Trevor Bayliss, Wasim Akram and Gautam Gambhir, who has backed me to the core. Whenever I was in the dressing room or practicing, he helped me mentally as well, because playing the first game, coming into a new team, is not easy for a player.