It is the start of the 19th over. Lockie Ferguson has the ball. And he has a plan. The first one that comes to mind against a power hitter on the rampage. The wide yorker. At about 150 kph. Best case scenario, it’ll be too quick to even touch. At the very least, it’ll be too wide to cause lasting damage. All of that is fair, except for one tiny little problem.
Suryakumar Yadav is at the crease and reality has already started to fray.
About half a second ago, he was holding a cricket bat the way most people hold it. Hands over the handle. Now, the bottom one was under it, setting up for a shot that should not have been possible.
The whole world is in slow motion now. The yorker is about to land near the wide line. Suryakumar is standing so very still, his eyes following the ball, his hands getting ready and his mind doing quantum geometry.
The bat makes contact. And because Suryakumar had adjusted his grip, he is able to get leverage into his shot. Boom. Four to third man.
The wide yorker is pretty much a bowler’s last resort in T20 cricket, because you can only come down on the ball and when that happens, no matter how much power you put into the shot, it doesn’t really travel very far.
So, Suryakumar found a way to get under it – his bat coming up to meet the ball – which at nearly 150 kph only needs a tickle to find the boundary.
This is the game he
plays has invented. It’s not real-life cricket. It’s anime cricket.
Think about it. He makes 111 off 51 balls. In the same time, on the same pitch and facing the same opponents, his partners at the other end made 44 off 38. He hit 11 fours and seven sixes. The rest of India put together managed seven fours and two sixes. This is classic anime. One superpowered being making a mockery of all things that came before them and all things that will come after them.
Suryakumar’s strokeplay isn’t the only thing that’s brilliant about him. He’s also really really good at reading the game. Lets go back to that wide yorker again. He wouldn’t have been able to put it away if he had not premeditated the shot. And he premeditated the shot because he had a fair idea of where the ball would be coming for him.
He had dealt with New Zealand’s slower balls into the wicket. On a pitch that had taken a considerable amount of rain, they just skidded onto his bat, and also out of the ground.
He’d even proved that hiding the ball away wasn’t going to work. In the 17th over – after backing away to the wrong side – he was able to cut a short ball away to the point boundary. A power hitter’s most important asset is his balance. A bowler’s job is to take that way. Tim Southee did everything right. And he still went for four.
Suryakumar had pushed New Zealand to the brink. And he knew what they’d do once they got there. Bring on their fastest bowler and ask him to target the tramlines.
We’ve all been thinking of this guy as the hero, but come on. Those are totally anime villain moves. Slowly, methodically will-to-fight-sappingly destroying the opposition with one perfect finishing move. Vegeta would be proud.
All of India is crying out for more players like Suryakumar. But this one is only here after 10 fruitless years of trying to break into the national team. He had the will to spend all that time upgrading himself, first to catch up with the way the game is played, and then, when he still couldn’t get in, to go even further beyond.
Rishabh Pant, Ishan Kishan, Deepak Hooda – they can’t do any of that because they’re already here. They don’t have the time to break their whole game down and rebuild it from the ground up. Not to mention, the first time they try to play like Suryakumar and it doesn’t come off, they will get memed all the way up.
India, as a whole, especially the selectors and the coaches, will have to buy into this way of batting (translation: eradicate the fear of failing with it) for a second SKY to emerge. And even then it’ll take a very long time because this one’s combination of physical strength, flexibility (especially in the wrist) and imagination is unreal. There are some good signs though. Shreyas Iyer pulled out a scoop three balls into his innings.
Cricket turned 360 with the arrival of AB de Villiers. In the coming years, thanks to one very special player, it could go full on anime.