Suryakumar Yadav
Suryakumar Yadav of the Mumbai Indians drives against the Royal Challengers Bangalore in the IPL 2020 game in Abu Dhabi on October 28, 2020. Image Credit: Sportzpics for BCCI

The Mumbai Indians have a galaxy of stars. Suryakumar Yadav is a not star. But he’s special. And he’s rescued Mumbai several times with gutsy knocks laced with delectable strokes. He plays some outrageous shots too. Much like AB de Villiers of the Royal Challengers Bangalore.

Yadav produced one of his specials on Wednesday to pilot Mumbai to victory over Bangalore. A night when De Villiers failed to work his magic. Without that magic, Bangalore were unable to post a winning total, despite a rousing start by Devdutt Padikkal 974 runs off 45 balls) and Josh Philippe (33 off 24). Mumbai’s star paceman Jasprit Bumrah (3-14) triggered a mid-innings wobble with a double strike in an over (a maiden), and Bangalore’s promised total never came.

A target of 165 is not beyond Mumbai’ vaunted batting, so Bangalore needed early wickets. And they did grab a couple despite Mumbai’s good start from Quinton de Kock and Ishan Kishan. That’s when Yadav arrived at the crease. And at 52/2 the game changed.

Yadav was composed, yet never missing out on scoring opportunities. When captain Virat Kohli threw in his trump card, leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal, Yadav responded with a breathtaking shot – a six over extra cover. Later when pace ace Dale Steyn was brought back into the attack, Yadav launched into a flurry of boundaries, including a six. But the backfoot drive was sublime. It sped like a missile. Pure timing. Pure class.

The win was never in doubt as long as Yadav was there. Even a minor slump couldn’t stop Yadav (79 not out, off 43) and Mumbai. In the end, it looked easy. Mumbai are virtually assured of a playoff spot, and it will take several dramatic results to deny them. Since the loss was not heavy, Bangalore remain on course for a last-four slot.

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When Yadav repeatedly conjures innings of such quality, the question that pops is: why is he not in the Indian squad? The standard answer is the crowded middle order. If the Indian selectors can keep out a talent like Yadav, the side must be brimming with top-class players. The only hope is that this rare talent is not wasted in the domestic circuit, like Tamil Nadu’s T.E. Srinivasan in the eighties and nineties.

Bangalore came into the match full of intent. Steyn was brought in to look for early wickets, but it’s a punt that failed. It happens. But Kohli can draw some positives from the game. The new opening combination worked well. Padikkal and Philippe scored at a fair clip without too many risky shots. But the middle-order may be a worry when De Villiers fails to fire. Chris Morris can fetch some quick runs, but he also failed. So the late surge never came, and that was the difference between a loss and victory.

And Mumbai had Suryakumar Yadav.