Shastri, Manjrekar question Yuvraj's hasty comeback
Former India players Ravi Shastri and Sanjay Manjrekar have questioned the hasty comeback of Yuvraj Singh after he recovered from cancer earlier this year. Both feel he is not back to full fitness. Shastri said Yuvraj should be left out for the crucial Super Eights match against Pakistan on Sunday, and Manjrekar said he should have been left out of the game against Australia too.
"My contention is, [for] eight months Yuvraj Singh has hardly played cricket, and when it comes to India vs Pakistan I'm not the kind to get emotional," Shastri told TIMES NOW. "I want to pick the best team and beat them. You can't be sentimental here, but be practical."
"My team would have Sehwag opening the innings, especially against Australia," Manjrekar told ESPNcricinfo. "I think it was an opportunity missed, because that was the kind of attack Sehwag likes on this kind of a pitch.
"I would have dropped Yuvraj Singh from my team in that last match, purely because we have seen in the last few matches Yuvraj Singh is still not quite 70% or 80%, maybe it is time now to slowly get him to work on his fitness, keep him involved in Indian cricket, but leaving out Sehwag was not such a good idea because he does what you need right at the start of the innings: put the opposition under pressure."
Yuvraj was included in the World Twenty20 squad, ahead of Ajinkya Rahane, even before he had had any serious match practice, and has played only a handful of T20s since undergoing chemotherapy in March. Shastri said Yuvraj's rustiness was obvious.
"We got to see if Yuvraj is 100% fit, and let's not think about Yuvraj 10 months ago," Shastri said. "No question that he straight away could have walked into any side in world cricket at that time, but having seen him he's still rusty and he's still a bit slow." Yuvraj has scored 60 runs in four T20I matches, and taken four wickets since his return.
Yuvraj is not the only thorny issue Dhoni has to grapple with. Sehwag's exclusion from the previous match, in which Australia thrashed India by nine wickets, has divided opinion. Shastri said he should be picked against Pakistan at the expense of Yuvraj. "If you go in with three fast bowlers and two spinners, then you have to think about your batting line-up and if Sehwag has to come - which I think he should - then who do you drop in that middle order, and one batsman that comes up is Yuvraj Singh.
"It's not the question of what Yuvraj Singh can do but what is his current state of mind after what he has done and you have to respect that. You can't be too greedy and ask too much from that body that quickly."
Shastri also talked up the impact Sehwag could have on the Pakistan match. "You just have to look at Sehwag's record against Pakistan - it's Bradman-like when you look at his average against them. So Sehwag will have the psychological edge when he gets out there plus the fact that he's been asked to sit out, and I think rightly so, in the last game against Australia, he'll be fired up." Sehwag averages 91.14 against Pakistan in Tests, but only 35.72 against them in ODIs, which is almost exactly the same as his career average. He has played only one T20I against them.
Sehwag's omission in the last game effectively facilitated the inclusion of a third specialist spinner, who had combined figures of 6.5-0-66-0 against Australia. Manjrekar was against going in with three of them for the Pakistan match. "The key is going to be the pitch, let's assume the pitch is going to be the same as we had in the last match, still three spinners is a bit too much, Sehwag has to come back in," he said.
"Even if they want Yuvraj Singh in there, they can get Virender Sehwag in and maybe drop one spinner, either Harbhajan Singh or Piyush Chawla, the choice is up to the captain who they want. I would go for a variation, because when you have Chawla you have a variation of R Ashwin and Chawla as the legspinner, but after his last performance I doubt whether Chawla will get another match if India is playing two specialist spinners."
Shastri said there was no need to play three spinners, given the number of part-time options India had. He also said there was no way India should be opening with Irfan Pathan, which denies their best batsmen the use of crucial overs of a 20-over match.
India's big defeat against Australia means their net run-rate has taken a beating, and they will probably need to win both their remaining Super Eight matches to qualify.