India vs Australia: Why Rohit Sharma is right in backing Suryakumar Yadav despite lean ODI form

India vs Australia: Rohit Sharma jumped to the defense of Suryakumar Yadav after the World No. 1 T20I batter bagged two back-to-back golden ducks in the ODI series against Australia. The India captain is right in offering a long rope to the 32-year-old.

By Akshay Ramesh: Among many things that Rohit Sharma said after India’s 10-wicket humbling to Australia in the 2nd ODi of a 3-match series in Visakhapatnam on Sunday, his backing of Suryakumar Yadav seemed the most logical. Rohit hit back at scribes who questioned him about the Indian top-order’s failures against high-quality left-arm pace, asking them back why they don’t make noise about their shortcomings against right-arm pacers. Yes, you read that right!

However, Rohit Sharma was quick to jump to the defense of Suryakumar Yadav, who has been having a forgettable two months against Australia at home. After failing to impress on his Test debut in Nagpur, Suryakumar has had a torrid time so far in the ODI series.

In the first ODI in Mumbai, Suryakumar Yadav was pinned in front by an inswinging Mitchell Starc delivery right after he walked into the middle at No. 5. The dismissal in the 2nd ODI in Visakhapatnam looked like a highlight reel from the series opener as another inswinging fuller-length delivery handed the Mumbai batter another golden duck.

Not many in the Indian camp had answers to Mitchell Starc’s masterclass on a cloudy afternoon in Visakhapatnam on Sunday. He rattled India’s top order, picking up as many as 4 wickets in his first spell with the new ball. India were reeling at 49 for 5 from which they were not able to recover. The 2nd ODI lasted lesser than your Sunday afternoon nap. It went for just 37 overs after India were bowled out for 117 — their lowest total against Australia at home before they succumbed to their heaviest defeat in ODIs – in terms of balls remaining as Australia chased down the total in 11 overs.


Despite the collective failure of India’s batting unit in Visakhapatnam, it’s hard not to look beyond Suryakumar Yadav’s struggles in the 50-over format. Two golden ducks in as many matches after having gotten an opportunity to play in the XI due to an injury concern to Shreyas Iyer doesn’t account for good reading.

Suryakumar has gone past the 50-run mark only once in his last 15 innings in ODIs and he has been past the 30-run mark only thrice in the said period. In 22 ODIs so far, Suryakumar has managed just 2 fifty-plus scores and averages 25.47.

The 32-year-old has managed 3287 runs at an average of 34.60 and has scored only 3 hundreds in 124 List A matches in his career. However, it’s his reputation of being a fearless hitter in white-ball cricket that is tempting the Indian team management to persist with Suryakumar.

Shreyas Iyer’s rise in the format has not allowed Suryakumar Yadav to get a string of matches against high-quality opposition. In January 2022, in only his second series, Suryakumar got only one opportunity in a 3-match series in South Africa. At the start of the New Year against Sri Lanka, Suryakumar played only one match as there were murmurs that he was not part of India’s ODI World Cup plans.


However, it is not to say that Suryakumar has been deprived of opportunities. Since the 2019 World Cup final, Suryakumar Yadav has played nearly half of India’s matches. He is next only to Shikhar Dhawan (25) for the most ODIs played by a batter for India since his debut in July 2021.

India, it seems, have started to look beyond Dhawan after having persisted with him, given him leadership roles when he captained second-string sides in a cramped schedule over the last two years.

Captain Rohit Sharma and the team management, led by Rahul Dravid, it seems are quite clear that they wouldn’t go down the same route with Suryakumar in ODIs.

“Of course, we have seen and he knows that he needs to do well in the slightly-longer format of the game as well. Things are there in his mind as well. Guys with potential will have enough run so that they don’t feel like ‘okay I wasn’t given enough chances in that particular slot’,” Rohit Sharma said on Sunday, speaking of the Suryakumar conundrum in the ODI side.

“Surya got out in the last two games and in the series before that as well. He needs that consistent run, like back-to-back games, 7, 8 and 10 games like that. So that he feels more comfortable..”

There have been others, who have been tried in the middle order. For instance, Sanju Samson has a fine record in the limited number of ODIs that he has played for India. He has managed 330 runs in 11 ODIs at an average of over 66. However, Suryakumar’s phenomenal rise in the shortest format of the game is once again helping him get a longer rope in ODI cricket as well.

If Shreyas Iyer is fit and ready to go, he will obviously take the middle-order role. However, in Rishabh Pant’s absence, India are unlikely to sideline Suryakumar Yadav, considering the firepower that he brings to the table in the middle overs.

India also have a problem at the top of the order as Ishan Kishan hasn’t managed to fire consistently after having been picked ahead of Shikhar Dhawan for the top-order roles. While Shubman Gill seems to have sealed the World Cup ticket with his exploits at the start of the New Year, India are likely to be more patient with the young opener, who showed his firepower when he hit a double hundred in Bangladesh. A double centurion is a luxurious option as a backup opener. isn’t it?

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