How Surya paved his way to the elusive Indian blue

“I started crying. My family started crying too. Those were tears of joy. We badly wanted to see this day. I recalled everything - I could see my mother getting up in the morning at 5.30-6.00, preparing breakfast, packing lunch when I come back from training, then dad dropping me at the ground, everything.” 

Suryakumar Yadav’s first words after getting the call-up to play for Team India in the recently concluded T20I series against England speaks volumes of what donning the Indian blue meant to him. 

His efforts, the long wait, his passion for the game - they had all finally paid off on that day. And with the way he played on his debut - the fearless approach, the first ball six off Archer, the delightful array of shots - proved that SKY belonged on the big stage. 

Where it all started 

It all began in the gullies of Mumbai, which showed this young child to have a penchant for cricket. Surya’s father noticed the same and decided to enroll him into formal cricket training. 

“When Surya first came to the ground, he was just 8 or 9. We would have MCA’s U-14 nets at our ground back then, which were supervised by Ashok Kamath Sir. The moment his childhood coach Ashok Sawalkar saw Suryakumar in the nets, he said, "this boy is going places!" 

On to the domestic cricket circuit 

Making a mark at the first available opportunity is as Surya as it can get. A 20-year-old Surya made his debut for Mumbai in the 2010 Ranji Trophy season with a well-paced 73. To put his knock in context, he played alongside big names, such as Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane and Wasim Jaffer. 

Just a year later, the youngster topped the scoring charts for Mumbai in Ranji Trophy with an aggregate of 754 runs! 

“‘Injured’ Suryakumar Yadav scores unbeaten 182!” 

That was what brought Surya first to the notice of fans of the cricketing world. It was in 2011 that MI decided to give this Mumbai lad a chance. While he did not play in the IPL, he was declared unfit for Champions League due to a finger injury. 

However, Surya found out about a local match being played in which he participated and scored 182*. He got ample media coverage for the knock, highlighting that he was fit to play for Mumbai but unfit for the Men in Blue & Gold. 

“I called our team (Mumbai Indians) manager Rahul [Sanghvi]. He told me I could go to NCA and give the fitness test. If I cleared it, I could come back to the squad. So I went and gave the fitness test, and they said I'm good to go. I came back (to the Mumbai Indians squad) and played in the tournament, and we won also. That was the best thing,” Surya reportedly recalled.

He played crucial cameos of 23 (19) & 24 (17) at the lower-order in the semi-final and final in MI’s title-winning Champions League season. It was also MI’s first-ever title victory! 

Moving up the ranks in the IPL 

Surya had a stint with the Kolkata Knight Riders, where he got his first fifty, played his first complete tournament, and even won an IPL title. However, he was destined to be back in the MI colours in 2018, when the team vigorously bid for him at the IPL auction. 

Now, the Paltan saw Surya open the game in Blue and Gold. And like every other opportunity, he made the best of this one too. He shone with the bat, scoring 512 runs, the highest for an MI player and the highest for any uncapped player that season. 

He followed that up with a 424-run season, still holding the title for most runs scored from an uncapped player in a season. While he no longer opened, he proved to be a formidable number three batsman. 

In IPL 2020, he notched up a string of good scores and yet, did not find a place in the national squad. 

"My father always checks all the websites any time an India A team is announced. He calls me as soon as he sees it and tells me your name is not there. I tell him that's not a problem," Surya had once said. 

But, on February 20th, 2021, Surya’s name finally appeared in the T20I squad against England. 

It is safe to say that Surya savoured every bit of what this moment meant and the doors it opened to him. He repaid the faith his selectors showed in him by scoring a 57 (31) in his very first innings. 

Not only did he announce his arrival with a bang, but it also allowed India to challenge the opposition against the set trend confidently. The fact that India defended totals and snatched a series victory from England on a pitch where the games were tilted towards the chasers proved this point perfectly.

Today, he is another step closer to his dream of representing his nation in the ODI format as well when he earned his maiden national ODI call-up against England.

The competition for spots in the Indian line-up has only heated up with Surya’s arrival. His eagerness to experiment fits well with Kohli’s vision of a dynamic approach in the T20Is. With his fearless batting approach, Surya has made a strong case for himself to be a regular in the team.

After all, “The passion and love for the game kept me going,” he said. And that sure doesn’t seem like it’s going to dry up for a long, long time to come.