It's October 26. The Indian squads for the tour of Australia have been announced. However, a few eyebrows have been raised as a name is missing: 30-year-old Suryakumar Yadav.
Cut to two days later. Mumbai Indians face the Royal Challengers Bangalore in a crucial IPL 2020 encounter. Chasing 165 runs, the Mumbai Indians are in a spot of bother at 72-3. While wickets are falling at one end, Suryakumar Yadav, with ice running through his veins, continues to keep MI ahead in the chase. He scores 79* off just 43 balls and helps MI beat RCB comfortably. He shows a great temperament and the courage to look Virat Kohli in the eye.
Leaving behind the disappointment of not being selected in the Indian team, Suryakumar lets his bat do the talking. After the end of the successful chase, he looks at his teammates in the dugout and gives them the assurance, "Main hoon na (trust me, I've got this)."
This assurance Suryakumar Yadav showed to his Mumbai Indians teammates is something the Indian team dearly miss, especially in T20I cricket.
The cracks in India's middle-order
Although India won the T20I series against Australia, the cracks showed in its middle order. Sanju Samson, Manish Pandey and Shreyas Iyer couldn't do justice to their selection. One cannot always expect a heroic innings from Hardik Pandya to rescue a game.
With the T20 World Cup less than a year away and the middle-order spots in the Indian team still up for grabs, only one question comes to mind - Is it time to blood some of the "Indians" from Mumbai Indians into India's T20I team?
Mumbai Indians, the most successful IPL franchise.
Mumbai Indians have dominated the IPL, winning five titles in the last eight seasons. Premier Indian T20I players like Rohit Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah, and Hardik Pandya have played for MI since a long time. The Indian team nurtured and backed the abilities of Bumrah and Hardik since their early days. Both repaid the faith and established themselves as stars of Indian cricket.
Doesn't this make a case for other Mumbai Indians players like Suryakumar Yadav and Ishan Kishan? Especially with the sort of performances that they displayed in the IPL 2020? What more do they need to do to deserve their call-up to the Indian team, particularly when the Men in Blue's T20 middle-order is struggling?
Suryakumar Yadav - Mumbai Indians' 'Mr. Reliable'
Suryakumar Yadav has now had three consecutive successful IPL seasons with the bat for the Mumbai Indians. He has scored 512, 424, and 480 runs in the 2018, 2019, and 2020 editions of the IPL respectively.
Whether in the opening or in the middle-order, he has delivered consistent performances and grown into being a reliable team-man.
Ishan Kishan's breakout IPL 2020 season
Ishan Kishan captained India's U19 World Cup team in 2016. Players from that team like Rishabh Pant and Khaleel Ahmed got the opportunity to play for the Men in Blue. Kishan, however, couldn't get a look in as he wasn't consistent in domestic cricket. But IPL 2020 proved to be his breakout year.
Ishan Kishan scored a staggering 516 runs at an outstanding average of 57.33. His highest score of 99 came in a game against RCB, where his incredible hitting saw Mumbai Indians almost pull off an impossible chase.
Kishan was even asked to open the batting for the Mumbai Indians when Rohit Sharma was injured. He responded to the faith shown in him in style as he smashed two half centuries and did not let MI feel the pinch of Rohit's absence. He also showed off his power-hitting ability, hitting the most number of sixes in the tournament.
If the football teams of Germany and Spain can have maximum players from Bayern Munich and Barcelona respectively due to their domestic dominance, why can't the Indian T20I team have most of its players from the Mumbai Indians?
T Natarajan's rise to the top
T Natarajan was another player who had a fantastic IPL 2020 season, and was taken as a net bowler to Australia. But later, as he was added in the ODI and T20I squad, the Indian team realized his impact. Picking up six wickets in the three T20Is, Natarajan was instrumental in India winning the series.
If Natarajan got an India call-up due to his IPL success, it's hard to think what else Suryakumar Yadav and Ishan Kishan could have done to be on the plane to Australia.
What's next for Suryakumar and Ishan?
All is not over for both yet as India will play a five-match T20I series against England next year at home. This is when the duo could get a look into the Indian team. As we will get closer to the 2021 T20 World Cup, the picture regarding India's settled XI will keep getting clearer.
Who knows, Ishan and Suryakumar could just end up ticking all the boxes for an ideal No.4 and No.5 for India in T20Is.
One can hope the players who performed well should get the majority of chances to play for the Men in Blue. Because in the end, it will only increase India's chances of winning the T20 World Cup again.
Published 16 Dec 2020, 20:11 IST