Suryakumar Yadav may not have been able to replicate his T20I form in ODIs, prompting many like Tom Moody to call his World Cup selection “lucky” but former India off-spinner said the selector made the right decision. Decribing Suryakumar as a “complete player” Harbhajan said his closest competitor for that middle-order’s slot, Sanju Samson, “does not have the game” like SKY does. “I feel Suryakumar Yadav is a complete, complete player. I don’t think the selectors have been harsh on Sanju Samson. I do feel Sanju is a very very good player, a quality player. But you can only select fifteen players. But picking Suryakumar over Sanju is the right call. Because the game that Suryakumar has in the middle over(s), I don’t think Sanju has that game,” Harbhajan Singh said during a virtual press conference organised by Star Sports ahead of the India vs Pakistan Super 4 match in the Asia Cup.
Further explaining his point, Harbhajan said even though Suryakumar can hit the big shots from ball one, there is a sense of reliability when he is at the crease, which is not the case with Samson, who has got out trying to play attacking shots even after getting set in the ODIs.
“Even he goes for big shots from the first ball, but the reliability Suryakumar gives you – he can score big. Sanju I feel plays the kind of cricket where there is a lot of chances that you get out. Whereas Suryakumar, I know a lot of people ask what has he done in ODIs, but what he has done in T20s, if his innings is only going to be that long then I feel in that position, there isn’t a better player than Suryakumar in India,” Harbhajan added.
In terms of impact, average, strike rate and consistency, no batter would even come close to SKY in T20Is in the last couple of years. He has a T20I average of 46, a strike rate of 172 and centuries in England, New Zealand and India. He has scored in World Cups, scored in crunch matches whether batting first or chasing. He has basically done everything a batter can do in T20Is.
The same has not been the case in ODIs. In the 26 ODIs that he has played so far, SKY has only managed two half-centuries and has an average of only 24, which prompted many to believe that he could the first-ever pure T20I batter, who is not suited for other formats, not even the ODIs.
The Indian team management, however, doesn’t believe that. They want to give as many chances to Suryakumar as possible in the 50-over format. And Harbhajan agrees with them. The former cricketer said not even Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli can do what SKY can while batting in the middle-order.
“What he can do at that position, neither Virat (Kohli) can do, nor Sanju or Rohit Sharma. Because what he does it’s a difficult job, batting at (No.) 5-6. What (MS) Dhoni has done, what Yuvi (Yuvraj Singh) has done,” he said.
“Because batting there is the toughest. Opening in (one-dayers), you know where to score runs. You have a lot of time. But when you go in to bat after 20-25 overs, you need the game to know where you can find gaps to get boundaries and I don’t think anyone in the Indian team can do that better than Suryakumar. And if it was up to me, I would play him in the team. Because when he is in the team, it increases the pressure on the opposition. Whether he fires or not. Because till the time he is at the crease, there will be pressure because on any day he can play a match-winning innings. He can hit 50-60 runs in 20 balls.
“So you have to play a player like this. You can’t waste him by keeping him out. So that ends the debate on whether Sanju should be in the team ahead of Suryakumar or not. Whether Sanju is in the team or not, Suryakumar Yadav should be in the XI.”