Ponting picks Suryakumar Yadav for key batting position in India's T20I side

ICC Review

Hit For Six!

Former Australia captain Ricky Ponting thinks Suryakumar Yadav must bat at No.4 for India in T20Is and has compared the emerging star with South Africa great AB de Villiers.

The first ball Yadav faced in international cricket was as good a sign as any of his skill and bravado when, with a swift swivel, he pulled a Jofra Archer short ball aimed at his head for six.

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Still, like with any raw talent, longevity is the best indicator of a truly world-class player. And Yadav followed his promising start with breathtaking performances in the next year-and-a-half to kickstart his time in the Indian jersey on a fine note.

Twenty-three matches into his T20I career, Yadav now sits at No.2 in the MRF Tyres ICC T20 Batter Rankings, behind Pakistan skipper Babar Azam, and has a strike rate of 175.45 which is the best for any player to bat as many times as he in T20I history.

However, with India's batting line-up bursting with incredible talent, there's no guaranteeing anyone's place in the XI with the ICC Men's T20 World Cup coming up in two months. Yadav has his backers, though.

Ponting has seen Yadav up close in his early years in Mumbai during the IPL, and feels the Indian middle-order batter should be locked into India's XI at the ICC Men's T20 World Cup later this year.

"He's a very, very exciting player and I'm sure someone that's going to find himself in their team, not just their squad," Ponting said on the latest episode of The ICC Review.

"I think you'd find him in their team for the T20 World Cup. And if he's in that team, then I think all the fans in Australia are going to see a very, very good player.

"He's quite a confident person. He backs himself and he's never going to step down from a challenge or any situation that arises in a game. I feel he thinks he can win that situation and therefore go on and win the game for his team."

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Yadav’s self-belief shines through every time he walks out to bat. In Nottingham recently, India looked down and out at 31/3 cashing 216 but the tables turned quickly with Yadav on the attack.

He went on to make his maiden T20I hundred, and India were in the game as long as he was out there.

Ponting believes that "self-belief in his own game and his own skill" sets Yadav apart from other rising stars in the game.

"Surya (Yadav) scores 360 degrees around the ground, a bit like an AB de Villiers did when he was in his actual prime. The lap shots, the late cuts, you know, the ramps over the keeper's head. He can hit down the ground," Ponting said.

"He hits really well over the leg side, flicks to deep backward square particularly well, and he's a good player of fast bowling and is a good player of spin bowling."

Multi-skilled T20 batters are in high demand and his skills make Yadav an enticing option in the XI for India with the tournament in Australia looming large.

Asked whether Yadav would make India's best XI, Ponting was adamant that "he played better than anybody else in the Indian team for the last couple of series" and felt he should be slotted into the top order.

"It's got to be in the top four, I think. I said stick with him (Virat) in his traditional spot, which has been number three," Ponting said.

"For Surya, it's one, two or four. I think he can open, but I think he's probably, you know, if you could probably just keep him away from the new ball, let him control the middle part of the game outside the Powerplay, through in the middle, and if he's in at the end, you know what can happen."

What can happen, from the relatively small sample size so far, is mind-blowing. Yadav's already impressive strike rate shoots up to 258.82 in the death overs in T20Is - in 34 balls he has smashed 88 runs with 15 of those deliveries going for boundaries.

"I think in the top four is, well, actually I'll go out on a limb: I don’t want him to open. I think number four is his best spot," Ponting declared.

Whether it is at No.4 or not will remain a talking point until the event in Australia, but there's very little argument against Yadav having an exciting career as a prominent feature of India’s teams.

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