The Indian cricket team will be back in action in the T20I format when Hardik Pandya and company will lock horns with Ireland in Malahide on June 26. Team India recently played a five-match series against the Temba Bavuma-led South Africa, marking the comeback of several cricketers to the national fold. However, Suryakumar Yadav missed out because of an injury. But the Mumbai dasher will finally make his return to the Indian cricket team in Ireland. Suryakumar Yadav has become an integral part of Team India's T20I line-up after debuting against England last year. A series of injuries, however, kept Suryakumar Yadav on the sidelines for the past couple of months, and subsequently missed several matches for the Mumbai Indians (MI) in the Indian Premier League. In Suryakumar Yadav's absence, his role was taken over by Shreyas Iyer in the Indian team. While Shreyas Iyer has flourished at that position, former Pakistan cricketer Danish Kaneria wants to see Suryakumar Yadav be given priority over him upon his return. Danish Kaneria pointed out that it would be “unfair” to Suryakumar Yadav if Rahul Dravid doesn't make him the first choice ahead of Shreyas Iyer in T20Is. Danish Kaneria was also critical of Rahul Dravid's recent comments which signaled toward continuing with Shreyas Iyer at the No.4 position in the batting order.
“There have been reports indicating that Rahul Dravid believes Shreyas Iyer to be more mature than Suryakumar Yadav. But I don't agree with Dravid's thinking. It would be unfair if Suryakumar Yadav doesn't get enough opportunities at this age. Iyer will have to perform consistently, otherwise, there's no way that he can retain his place in the side,” Danish Kaneria said on his official YouTube channel.
Even India's former national selector Devang Gandhi agreed with Danish Kaneria's remarks, highlighting Shreyas Iyer's struggles against short-pitched bowling.
“Shreyas' struggles against the short ball has been bugging him since long. But when one talks about Surya, what stands out is his versatility,” Devang Gandhi told The Telegraph.
“Not just at No.4 or anywhere in the middle order, but Surya can fit in even as a No.3 and is also capable of performing a finisher's role,” he added.
Though Shreyas Iyer has more experience than Suryakumar Kumar in the T20I format, having played 41 matches to the Mumbai-born batter's 14, the latter has a better strike rate and average than the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) captain.
Compared to Shreyas Iyer's 34.73 Suryakumar averages 39 for India in T20Is.
Coming back to the strike rate, Shreyas Iyer's strike rate is 139.35 which is pretty good, to say the least. But at 165.56, Suryakumar's average is simply outstanding.
According to Devang Gandhi, another factor that bodes well for Suryakumar Yadav is his ability to improvise as per the demands of the situation.
“His improvisation skills are quite good. We saw how well he negotiated a bowler of Jofra Archer's calibre (during India’s home T20Is versus England last year) even when dealing with the short ball,” Devang Gandhi explained.
Despite his X-factor, Suryakumar could still be sitting on the bench in the series against England because India head Rahul Dravid is backing Shreyas Iyer at least for now.
“I think Shreyas, in the early part of the (South Africa) series on a couple of tricky wickets, showed a lot of intent and played really positively for us,” Rahul Dravid said.
“As you’ve seen, I don’t like judging people after one series or one game. And in this format, you’re going to have some good as well as some bad games,” Rahul Dravid argued.
Meanwhile, former India cricketer Irfan Pathan too disagreed with Rahul Dravid on the subject of who should be India No.4 in the shortest format as he gave his vote to Suryakumar Yadav. But he said that the competition between the two was hotting up.
“T20 World Cup is still far away. But apart from these couple of games, he (Shreyas Iyer) has done well, be it in the series against Sri Lanka or West Indies before the IPL. So yes, he is making his case very strong,” Irfan Pathan said on Star Sports.
“He performed really well. He was just coming hard against the bowlers from the word go, and that's the kind of character you need as well when you want someone to bat higher up the order. At the same time, as far as fast bowling is concerned, he needs to get better, and obviously, because the World Cup is still far away, quite a few games he will be playing. In those games, whenever he is getting the opportunity after all the guys come in, he needs to make sure that he has a consistent performance,” the former India left-arm pacer concluded.