On Monday, Tamil Nadu wicketkeeper-batter N Jagadeesan slammed 277 off 141 balls (25×4, 15×6), the highest individual score in List A cricket. Rub your eyes in disbelief again, for Tamil Nadu rode on that knock to rack up a colossal 506/2, the first time a team has crossed 500 in a 50-over game. A week earlier, Saurashtra’s Samarth Vyas hit 200 off 131 balls, breaking the record for the fastest double century by an Indian in List A cricket.
Though these scores have come against Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur respectively, it shows the shift white-ball cricket is undergoing. Average scores are constantly going up and batters are emboldened to keep attacking all the way through an innings when the conditions are ripe.
This is why there was exasperation about India’s timid approach with the bat in their T20 World Cup semi-final loss to England. They were well aware of the derring-do they needed to display with the bat, like England’s approach, and yet reverted to a default setting under the pressure of a knockout game.
The exception, of course, is Suryakumar Yadav, whose dazzling range of shots around the ground evokes awe. Having excelled in the World Cup, Yadav carried that form into the T20 series in New Zealand, hitting an unbeaten 111 off 51 balls to help India claim a 65-run victory in the second game.
As India look to rebuild and set things in order for the 2024 T20 World Cup in the Caribbean and United States, it is clear they need to find more players with Yadav’s skills and mindset. It is the domestic system that is likely to throw up these candidates. As England have shown with their white-ball success, the whole system needs to buy into a T20-specific mindset—stand-in coach VVS Laxman mentioned this before the New Zealand series—for things to click.
It may take time for Yadav’s 360-degree range approach to trickle down to the domestic level and influence young batters, but Vyas—whose double century against Manipur included 20 fours and nine sixes—already senses a change.
“Because of players like Surya, that culture is coming in, of playing these shots. Mostly these shots are important in T20s. If the bowler executes the yorker well, you need to improvise and move at the crease like Surya does or AB de Villiers used to do. The more options you have, the better,” said the 26-year-old Vyas.
Shots behind the wicket have become a pre-requisite to manipulate the field in the shortest format. While the likes of Jos Buttler and Glenn Maxwell have been playing the scoops, ramps and switch-hits for some time, Suryakumar has been a breath of fresh air primarily because not many Indian batters go for such inventiveness.
Left-handed batter Tilak Varma, for instance, says he has started working on expanding his range. The 20-year-old from Hyderabad starred for Mumbai Indians in IPL 2022, aggregating 397 runs in 14 matches (Avg 36.09, S/R 131.02).
“I used to play more red-ball cricket as a junior. In the last one-and-a-half years, I have worked a lot on my T20 cricket,” said Varma, playing for Hyderabad in the ongoing Vijay Hazare Trophy. “I have improved a lot of different shots like sweep and reverse sweep. I have molded my game to T20s because you need to have a very good strike rate. When you play these different shots, there is more pressure on the bowlers. So, I have adapted accordingly.”
Jagadeesan is a top-order batter who is fairly conventional in his methods, usually targeting areas down the ground to release pressure. While he does n’t want to let go of his strengths, he is also aiming to find new scoring zones. “Every day I try to improve in the nets and look to play different shots. There is not a point where you want to be complacent and happy with the way you are playing. There has to be improvement in every session,” he said.
If all of this helps India find multiple ‘360-degree’ batters, it will certainly bode well for their T20 prospects.