It has not even been 24 hours since India’s much-awaited T20 World Cup win and Suryakumar Yadav is amused by the contrast in the curfew-like view of the street below his team hotel at Barbados and the videos of mass celebrations that he has been getting. from back home.

Suryakumar had returned from a post-win party, where the entire team danced till the wee hours, to find 1,014 Whatsapp congratulatory messages on his phone. But ask him about the game and his sleep-deprived mind comes alive as he recalls the riveting speech captain Rohit Sharma gave at the team huddle, minutes before the final against the South Africans.

Talking to The Indian Express from Barbados, Surya, whose spell-binding catch on the ropes to dismiss David Miller turned the match on its head, says, “He told us to keep it simple but said, ‘I can’t climb this mountain. alone. If I have to reach the peak, I will need everyone’s oxygen’. He also said, ‘Joh Bhi hai, paon mein, dimag mein, dil mein (Whatever you have in your legs, mind and heart), just bring everything to the game. If that happens, we will not regret the night’. We all were moved.”

If Rohit moved with his action and words, coach Rahul Dravid, Suryakumar recalls, set the mood with a simple slide presentation that made them realize that they would have to rise to the occasion.

Suryakumar Yadav interview after India's T20 World Cup win India’s Suryakumar Yadav plays a shot during the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup second semifinal cricket match between England and India at the Guyana National Stadium in Providence, Guyana, Thursday, June 27, 2024. (AP/PTI)

“He showed a graph of the number of T20 games the entire Indian team had played — from Virat bhai to Yashasvi Jaiswal (the most junior member). That number was 800-plus,” says Surya. “And then he showed a second slide that had the number of games that the entire coaching staff, including Rahul bhai, had played — that number was 1. He said to us, ‘You are the best judge here to make the right call at the right time. So leave every other thing to us, go out there and enjoy your game’.”

Festive offer

Suryakumar says the team had a motto that was followed all through the campaign. “Before the start, we decided that we won’t talk about what lies ahead in the tournament. Nobody thought about Super 8 and the same was true for the finals in Barbados. Our mind has to be where our feet are — that was our motto,” he says.

On Rohit’s leadership style, Suryakumar says, “He connects with the players. Off the field, be it in a hotel room, or on the beach, he connects with everyone. So when a crunch situation comes, players know that he (Rohit) will back us. One feels I have to deliver for this man for the confidence and respect he gives to everyone.”

Surya says the team’s never-quit spirit, which came in handy during key moments in the tournament – ​​be it in the game against Pakistan, where India came back late in the game, or the final, when they rallied together to fight despite South Africa. needing just 26 runs from 24 balls with six wickets intact – stems from a deep self-belief.

“Everyone, starting from the captain, was relaxed because we knew that one magical thing will happen and we will be back in the game. And the way Bumrah and Arshdeep bowled was remarkable.”

He says he will remember the final not just for his catch, but for two moments, which, he says, will stay with him for years to come.

One of these is of the acutely self-conscious Dravid letting himself go when Kohli thrust the trophy into his hand. “That 30-second clip, when he took the trophy in his hand and screamed… that moment when he expressed his happiness. I think I will save that clip for life,” says Suryakumar.

Suryakumar Yadav 6 India vs Afghanistan India’s Suryakumar Yadav watches the ball after playing a shot during the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup cricket match between Afghanistan and India at Kensington Oval in Bridgetown, Barbados, Thursday, June 20, 2024. AP/PTI

The second imagery is that of Rohit Sharma down on his knees on the turf after the game was won. “The way he fell down, ate some grass off the ground and tasted some mud on the pitch. These moments will stay with me for a long time.”

Dravid’s guiding hand through the World Cup might not have materialized had it not been for an intervention from Rohit. “In the end, he (Dravid) came and thanked Rohit and said, ‘Thank you, Rohit, for that phone call in November’, because he didn’t want to continue after (India’s loss in the final of) the 50- over World Cup but Rohit and Jay sir (BCCI secretary Jay Shah) convinced him to stay.”

Along with Dravid and Rohit, Kohli has also announced his retirement from international T20s, and Surya shares what he learned from the Indian batting master of this era. “He is a powerhouse of energy on the ground, regardless of his performance. If you see, till the final, things didn’t go as he wanted to but the way he carried himself on the field… He was taking part in team get-togethers, practice sessions, everything. He was a leader in his own way.”

And Kohli’s fitness. “In 2022, when I made my debut, I did most of the batting with him during the bilateral series and then the World Cup. I realized then that if I have to bat with Virat Kohli, I have to match his fitness because he takes two quick runs by pushing a ball in the gaps and then he slams a four.”

In the end, it’s to that catch that Surya returns to. “Many people have been sending me a photo of that catch… some have a ball picture, some have morphed the ball with the trophy. I will carry this with me for two years and will replicate it in the next World Cup. It was my fourth ICC event, and my first win. I will remember this for a long time. First is always special.”