A once-in-a-lifetime catch, 1014 WhatsApp messages, and a long night. Suryakumar Yadav’s famous grab to dismiss David Miller in the last over ensured India ended India’s long ICC trophy drought. Devendra Pandey spoke to Surya the day after the final when he reflected on the momentous events at Bridgetown and what it meant for him and the team.

Q. Did you manage to get some sleep?

Suryakumar Yadav: I couldn’t actually, I’m still taking time to make sense of what happened yesterday, and how it happened. Obviously, it’s a dream to win the World Cup, but to be part of a game in which our win predictor was around 4-5% and to win from there, it was one of the greatest finals.

But if you look outside the window, neeche sab sannata hai (it’s all quiet down below), everyone has gone home after the game. There is no one here, probably, once we reach India, kya mahoul hoga (what will be the atmosphere), we will feel there only. I can see from here that the whole of India is celebrating, everyone is on the streets. When I saw the phone, it had 1014 WhatsApp messages. I have never got so many messages till date, even when we won any tournament. I’m even getting messages from random people. I was really touched by the video sent by Prime Minister Modi sir.

Q. Who danced the most during the post-match party?

Suryakumar Yadav: No one’s feet stopped. Everyone danced, those who were fresh had to dance more but those who were tired were allowed to take some rest. We knew such moments don’t come often. At the same time, we knew that we won’t be seeing a few top players anymore playing for India in this format. We won’t be sharing the dressing room anymore.

Q. The pre-final atmosphere in the team was different than the ODI world cup final in India?

Festive offer

Suryakumar Yadav: The way we were playing in India, a day before the final, we thought we just had to go to the ground and pick the trophy. It was a learning experience for us and we rectified the mistakes we committed. In 2023, we were thinking a lot which we didn’t do this time. Aur dekho kaam ho gaya (we got the job done).

Before the start of this tournament, 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

Can you talk about those seven seconds of the famous catch which won the game?

Suryakumar Yadav: Our fielding coach (T) Dilip sir has said that Surya, Virat (Kohli), Axar Patel and Ravindra Jadeja should always field at the hotspot areas, where there is the greatest chance of the ball going.

The catch I took, I have practiced it at different grounds, depending on the wind. I was standing a bit wide yesterday because Hardik (Pandya) and Rohit (Sharma) bhai had put a field for the wide yorker, and (David) Miller had hit straight. My mind was clear that kaise bhi karke pakad he lena hai (come what may, have to catch it). Rohit bhai usually never stands at long-on but at that moment he was there. So when the ball was coming, for a second I looked at him and he looked at me. I ran and my aim was to catch the ball, had he (Rohit) been closer, I would have thrown the ball towards him. But he was nowhere close. In those 4-5 seconds, whatever happened, I can’t explain. The amount of reaction I have been getting for that, people have been calling, messaging, there are more than 1,000 unread WhatsApp messages on my phone. The catch is all over social media. I’m grateful that I was there in those five seconds of play.

When I pushed the ball and took the catch, I knew I hadn’t touched the rope. The only thing I was cautious about was that when I pushed the ball back inside, my feet didn’t touch the rope. I knew it was a fair catch. In hindsight, anything could have happened. If the ball had gone for six, the equation would have been 5 balls, 10 runs. We might have still won, but the margin would have been closer.

Q. How much hard work goes into fielding sessions?

Suryakumar Yadav: A day before the game, we do a quality fielding session where for 10-12 minutes, we have more than 10 high catches, flat catches, direct hits, slip catching. It’s not a one-day exercise, I practice these kinds of catches during IPL, during bilateral series. Yesterday’s catch was the reward of the hard work done over the years.

The introduction of the fielding medal has ensured that everyone wants to do something extra on the ground, be it saving one or two runs which makes a difference. It is a good initiative. And the people giving the medals give us more motivation.

Q. And your diet too came handy to maintain your balance on the ropes?!

Suryakumar Yadav: Yes! I remember last August, I was at around 93 kg, maybe because I was having too much local food. I got injured and then had a hernia operation. I went totNCA (National Cricket Academy) Bengaluru from January 1 to April 1. Even during off days, I used to not go home because I knew Monday morning would be my session. I couldn’t waste time. I ate proper food prepared by my chef. I used to sleep sharp at 10 pm and get up early in the morning. Even now, I have decided on my meals for the next week with the help of the chef and nutritionist; they decide how much protein and fat I will have daily, how much water I need to take with my food. We have a group for it which also has my wife. They decide and I just follow. It helped me here.

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

Q. Can you talk about your batting?

Suryakumar Yadav: Even if my World Cup hadn’t gone well, I still would have taken this (ICC medal). I remember at the start of the World Cup, Rohit bhai had said, “mein tujhe nahi bataoonga, is tournament mein tujhe kaise khelna hai (I will not tell you how to play in this tournament).” I will decide where the team needs my type of innings or when I just need to be there. He will not tell me anything. After the USA game, he said ‘I just wanted you to be there at the crease’. I knew I would win the game if I was batting till the end. It was an unusual rare knock for me; a 49-ball 50. Sometimes one has to play such knocks for the team.

Q. Can you tell us what Rohit talks during the team huddle?

Suryakumar Yadav: Before the final, 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 moved.

I have played so much cricket, be it in IPL or international cricket in the past four-five years. 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.”

Q. What has been Rahul Dravid’s contribution behind the scenes?

Suryakumar Yadav: Wall kabhi chhupta nahi hai (wall doesn’t hide) (laughs) and Indranagar ke wall ko koi kabhi chhupa nahi sakta hai. He has created a wall which protects us from the expectations of people, pressure, and to provide comfort to the players.

Virat bhai also said the same thing the other day about “the way you have played and seen cricket in your time and to come out and give the freedom to players in this format …’ If a batsman felt that this is right, he will say ‘ok, if you feel it’s right, you make that decision’. He never imposed his experience on anyone. He understood others and thought about what others were thinking. These are small things that we forget after winning a tournament. His contribution was massive. His sense of humor is awesome.

Before the tournament, 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’.

It spreads positivity. This time, he kept many optional practice sessions but it was the first time everyone wanted to come for an optional practice session. Everyone wanted to spend time with each other. Once he put a message on the group that he was going to the beach and all 15 players were there. There was a different vibe this time.

Q. How does he use data? Hardik Pandya’s game-turning slower one well-outside-off to Heinrich Klaasen; was it discussed?

Suryakumar Yadav: It must have been during the bowlers’ meeting on the areas one can bowl. In which area a particular person has discomfort, all these things do get planned. Data is important and it’s part of the preparation before a game – against particular batsmen or bowlers. It is important to see match-ups. In which situation we can push and in which situation we have to be cautious.

Q. Have you ever seen Dravid so happy?

Suryakumar Yadav: 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.

In the end, he 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 50-over World Cup but Rohit and Jay sir (BCCI secretary Jay Shah) convinced him to stay.

What has Virat Kohli been for you?

Suryakumar Yadav: 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.

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. I had told the strength and conditioning coach Soham Desai to keep my training time along with him. Because sometimes there are days when I don’t feel like training or my body is tiring or mentally I’m not ready. So by watching him those 40 minutes will pass by in the gym.

Q. Which game would you pick as the key in how this team played this tournament?

Suryakumar Yadav: I think it all started from the Pakistan game where we were defending a low total. There was never a time when we gave up on the game. We pushed ourselves. In franchise cricket, we see close games that turn in a moment. The calmness on the ground during the final, starting from the captain, everyone was relaxed because we knew that something magical will happen and we will be back in the game. And (Jasprit) Bumrah-Arshdeep (Singh), the way they bowled was remarkable.

Q. Who was the most emotional after the game?

Suryakumar Yadav: Everyone was emotional, everyone ran towards the captain. Because six months ago, the trophy came in front of us and went away. Now, 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.

Q. One moment of yours that you will carry for a long time?

Suryakumar Yadav: The catch photo which many people are sending me, 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.

Kuldeep (Yadav) mentioned how it will take time to sink in (looking at his medal) because players wait for a whole career to win an ICC trophy. Many don’t get it. Those who do, cherish it for life. It will stay with me for a long time. Hopefully after two years, I can copy paste this again.