Daryl Mitchell and Suryakumar Yadav have quite a lot in common. Both made their international debuts pretty late after slogging for years – Mitchell at 29 and Surya at 30. They began their domestic careers at almost the same time, with Mitchell following Suryakumar a year after the Mumbai batter took baby steps in Ranji Trophy and First-class cricket. Both had similar breakout years too, with Mitchell averaging 54.33 in his maiden season in 2011-22, and Suryakumar emerging as the leading run-scorer for Mumbai with 754 runs from nine matches. Just one year separating the two, Mitchell and Suryakumar would coincidentally go on to make their white-ball debuts in 2021, and even though the New Zealand all-rounder hasn’t quite set the stage on fire quite like SKY, Daryl has been pretty damn impressive himself.

Mitchell blasted his maiden Test century in only his fourth Test, scoring an unbeaten 102 against England and led New Zealand to a stunning innings win. And earlier this year, Mitchell was nearly unstoppable against Ben Stokes’ unit again, scorching back-to-back match-winning centuries in Nottingham and Leeds with a half-century to go in each of the other innings. Meanwhile, Suryakumar has single-handedly dominated T20Is, becoming the leading run-scorer of 2022 by quite some distance and cementing himself as the top ICC-ranked batter. With India touring New Zealand, the two parallel careers have come face-to-face for the first time, and it was SKY who won Round 1 comprehensively by smashing a whirlwind century in Mount Maunganui. Mitchell, who has previously squared off against Surya – albeit briefly – experienced the madness of the newest hot thing in world cricket and admitted being in absolute awe of the carnage at the Bay Oval.

Also Read | ‘Sent a screenshoot of India’s scorecard to Finch and said what is SKY doing?’

“He is seriously good, isn’t he? I had the pleasure of bowling to him in the IPL. He is world class. Obviously that innings, I personally think that’s the best I have ever seen live in T20 cricket. He is easily in some pretty good form at the moment, making the game appear easy,” Mitchell told Hindustan Times in an exclusive chat.

The T20I series didn’t exactly pan out the way either team would have liked to with rain having the final say. After the opening game in Wellington was washed out, India took a 1-0 lead with a handsome 65-run win in Tauranga setting the stage for a mouth-watering decider at McLean Park. Sadly though, the riveting contest that it was turning out to be, ended up being a dampener, with India edging past New Zealand to take the series following a dramatic DLS tie.

With the ODIs now taking precedence, Mitchell, who hasn’t quite fired in the series with scores of 10 and 10, is keen to make the most of the remaining three games in Auckland, Hamilton and Christchurch. The current Indian team is without some of their star players but with India’s younger lot taking over and showing incredible courage and positivity such as they did in the third T20I, Mitchell understands the gravity of the challenge that lies ahead.

“They are world class players. Obviously at the international stage they are really good and being able to experience the IPL with a number of those guys, you do see how talented and good they are. It’s awesome to have them across on our shores over here in New Zealand over the summer and take them on. We as a group really look forward to taking on the best in the world and India is definitely right up there,” Mitchell added.

This time around though, Mitchell is performing a much different role with New Zealand. Last year, Mitchell opened the innings at the T20 World Cup and took them to the final with a blazing innings of 72 off 47 against England. In him, New Zealand found the perfect ‘accidental opener’ after Tim Siefert had strained his abdomen… And boy, did he make the most of it. With 208 runs from seven innings, including a 49-run knock off 57 balls against India, Mitchell, initially meant to be a finisher with Jimmy Neesham, was relishing his role at top but a fractured finger weeks before the T20 World Cup meant that NZ persisted with him in the middle order. Having played most of his cricket at No. 5 in 2022, Mitchell understands that adaptability is a key factor in T20 cricket, and something he wants to excel at.

“I actually think it’s a really cool challenge to be able to adapt to different positions in international cricket. For me, that’s probably my skill sets, the ability to be able to chop and change spots and adapt to different situations out in the middle. I love it whether I’m opening or batting in the middle order or finishing the game. It’s an honour to be representing my country at the international stage,” the New Zealand all-rounder mentioned.

Speaking of versatility, Mitchell, 31, is finally at an enjoyable place in his career. He has tasted remarkable success in Tests and is playing impactful innings for New Zealand in ODIs and T20Is. However, with Stokes announcing his retirement from ODIs and recently, Australia’s David Warner hinting at giving up from Tests next year, players increasingly are specialising in one or the other format to prolong their careers. Is it something Mitchell too will potentially consider in the future? Pat came the reply.

“I started my international career a little bit older than a lot of guys and for me, that means I really want to make the most of playing all three formats for my country as long as I can. Obviously, the schedule that is out is very busy these days and there is a lot of travel involved but yeah, for me, it’s a huge deal to be part of this group and do it for a long time to come across all three formats.”

(Cricket enthusiasts in India can watch the 1st ODI against New Zealand on Prime Video on November 25, 2022. Precoverage starts from 6 AM onwards.)

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