ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / Features

India v West Indies, Group B, World Cup 2011, Chennai

Hanging tough through the trough

Yuvraj Singh has had to be strong to get past a difficult 2010; to get past a stomach bug that hampered him during his hundred in Chennai; to carry a failing middle order. It's time for the rest of the team to hang tough too

Sharda Ugra at the MA Chidambaram Stadium

March 20, 2011

Comments: 58 | Text size: A | A

Yuvraj Singh spent the best part of the last year climbing out of a trough. He was dropped from the Test and one-day teams, was struggling with fitness and injury, and found his career crash landing. Had he been younger, Yuvraj once said, he may even have considered giving up the game. Within the course of this last month, he is fast approaching what could become his finest hour as a one-day cricketer. Strangely, that does not even depend on how far the Indian team goes in the World Cup because if India looks around their dressing room to identify its most improved cricketer in 2011, it would have to be him.

If the team were to pick their totem for the kind of cricketer they need as their sport's biggest event goes into its most oxygen-depleting stage, it would also have to be Yuvraj again.

Other than the opening game, every match won by India at this World Cup has featured their heavy-hitting, loose-limbed, floating middle-order man as Man of the Match. Ireland and Holland may not be the strongest of opposition, but without Yuvraj, India would have floundered, both with runs and wickets.

Against West Indies, in the gorgeously renovated Chepauk, India needed an emphatic performance in their last group game, and their 80-run win was led by Yuvraj's first one-day century since July 2009. The century did not contain Yuvraj's signature big shots crashing around the ground like waves on the nearby Marina. It was a slow, long, quiet haul, the hundred buttressed by two dropped catches (at 9 and 13), 45 humble singles, stomach cramps, retching and the dehydrating demands of an intestinal bug.

In the latter half of his innings, Yuvraj began to squat on his haunches; the hardships focussed his mind to a point where he found a way to push on. Two sixes in 123 balls is docile by his standards, but he clung onto the big picture: bat till the end.

It meant keeping the ball on the ground and making the most of having come in at No. 4. "I wanted to get to the 100 mark because this was the opportunity, batting at no. 4," he said afterwards. He began his media conference by sinking an entire bottle of Gatorade down his throat, and then making wisecracks. At No. 5, Yuvraj said, he never faced enough deliveries to hit his way to three-figures. "I just wanted to bat till the end today ... I just wanted to get to the 100 mark, because it's been a while."

Yuvraj must look around the dressing room and realise that, in this World Cup, it has been an alarming while since India's middle order has showed up as a collective unit that can build from his singular performances in the tournament. With Sachin Tendulkar walking off early and Virender Sehwag sitting out the West Indies match due to a nagging knee injury, this was the best stage for the next clutch of batsmen - Gautam Gambhir, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina and the captain MS Dhoni himself - to treat this particular game as a stage on which to make a statement, rather than merely show off their skill.

The batting order suited everyone in the line-up; the team didn't have to choose between Raina and Yusuf Pathan in the XI, Gambhir could open, and Kohli could bat at No. 3 and have 49 overs in which to "express" himself. Kohli's two-hour innings, in which he scored 59 off 76 balls, was promising. He built a 122-run partnership in which he gave Yuvraj large swathes of the strike. Yet Kohli's departure, caused by a missed attempt at a cross-batted shot against the probing and incisive Ravi Rampaul, with 18 overs left to play and his older partner visibly struggling, was a moment that makes coaches want to bang their heads in bathrooms.

Ever since they battered Bangladesh's bowling attack in Mirpur, India seems to have picked the 40th over as the moment their line-up must go down in spectacular flames. In Mirpur, they added 94 in their last 10 overs for the loss of two wickets. After returning home though, they have gone in the opposite direction. In Bangalore against England, India scored 91 runs for the loss of seven wickets from the 40th to the innings close; against South Africa, they managed 28 for 8, and against West Indies, on Sunday, they got 56 for 7.

In the previous three matches, it was believed India had taken the batting Powerplay too early; they took it from the 35th to the 39th over against Bangladesh, from 37 to 41 against England, and 39 to 43 against South Africa. Against West Indies, they left it for the very end, and still it trapped them, as they failed to bat out their full quota of overs. Little appeared to have changed since the weeks post Mirpur, yet one thing did: for the first time since the first match of the World Cup, India won big.

Their flailing middle order must now realise they have run out of all room for what the tennis folk call unforced errors. Yuvraj was replying to a question about crowd support, but produced what could be a handy dressing room speech to his middle-order partners going into the knockout phase. "You are playing the World Cup quarter-finals for your country. This is the moment of your life. This is the moment you live for as a cricketer."

During his annus horribilius, he said he had hung onto an idea: that tough people outlast tough times. Well, at least now the batting around Yuvraj knows what they need to do to push this team through the World Cup. Be like him. Keep hanging tougher.

Sharda Ugra is senior editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Comments: 58 
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Posted by Samar on (March 23, 2011, 7:04 GMT)

Funny and over exaggerated article .. how much did he score (just 12) against the better opposition SA in a no pressure situation when he came to bat when the score was mammoth 268 for 3 in just 40 overs and how many wicket (big zero ) did he take ... same was the case with England when he arrived at the crease with score 180 for 2 in 29 overs , no pressure at him at all , only pressure to him was to score runs not the match situation ... Bangladesh , WI, Ireland and bla bla are never a better opponents in such a dead flat sub continent track ... he never ever look the same fluent Yuvi in any of the games .. how many dropped catches and life did he get during his hundred against WI .. has be even learned to play a away going deliver (off spin and off cutters ) , what is the standard of his fielding and his athleticism ... I think i would be too early to over rate him . the main 4 heroes for India till now is Shewag , Sachin , Kholi and Zaks not Yuvi .all MoM against tiny opponents .

Posted by Abhishek on (March 22, 2011, 10:06 GMT)

Yuvi always had talent but in this match, he showed some real steel. A pumped up Yuvi, as was often pointed out by Dhoni, is crucial for India's chances- because he is more than the sum of his parts- he can the lift the whole team up with him.

Posted by jatinder on (March 22, 2011, 2:22 GMT)

d thing i like abt yuvraj is dat he s a big stage player and always performs in big events..i remember v won d t20 wc mainly bcoz of him ..unlike dhoni or gambhir who always performs in matches wht i thnk r useless matches...it also shows dat true class cannt be hidden at big stage..and ven sehwag returns i wud like raina 2 play either gambhir or kohli had 2 sit out 4 sake of team balance..

Posted by Dummy4 on (March 22, 2011, 1:44 GMT)

But what now INDIA has to face AUSSIE'S next.... what will happen...... can India manage to enter semis.....????/// acc to me 70%no rest depends on luck. Defeating Caribbean's is a win or it's better if we could have lost this game. if we would have lost this game then we were to face Lankan's which is easier to defeat then Aussies.

Posted by Aakash on (March 22, 2011, 0:13 GMT)

Nice article without doubt. I think India is settling really well here - of course not everything is perfect ...i dont think we even need perfect to win the world cup. It is great that we have been taking learnings from each game and if we keep doing so, this should be a smooth run. I sometimes feel that we try too hard to do something different and special when all we probably need to do is play to our basics and strengths - playing how we love to play and let the game flow naturally. World cup matches are just great days to show how much you love the game - nothing more.

Posted by Avinash on (March 21, 2011, 20:51 GMT)

looking at Yuvraj i believe now he looks much more matured to take big responsibility and understand what is best for the Interest of game. 9/10 time he scores century India wins.. needless to say now what can transform India fate in this worldcup. His Bowling has been impeccable when compared with our lead spin bowler.A Terrific example of bowling , flight and drift .. really a true talent who morphed himself when he was down.. I believe he can make India proud and help tendulkar to retire at happy note.

Posted by Rajesh on (March 21, 2011, 19:59 GMT)

Yuvraj is a match winner. For India to win against Australia, at least one among Yuvraj, Sehwag, and Tendulkar needs to have a big inning. India's lower order must play more sensibly. You don't have to go for broke just because you had a good start. A delivery still has to be played on its merit and as per the batsman's ability. Six or seven runs an over is still a good rate between overs 35 and 45, and that can be done without taking too many risks.

Posted by Royal on (March 21, 2011, 18:06 GMT)

from wat av seen gambhir has to be the unlucky guy to sit out, he jus doesnt help the balance of the team at all, its a must for india to hav raina in the team jus for the fielding and hard hitting he brings to the table and kohli jus luks brilliant at no3 solid no3 for india and the rest jus falls into its own position.

Posted by Yash on (March 21, 2011, 17:45 GMT)

Pleased to see that Yuvi peaks every 4 years, during world cups. The last time he really earned his paycheck was in the last world cup. Kidding apart, its good to see him come back to form. Lot of room left to be at the level he was the last time he peaked. Good to see at least one player in the team who is in form, and it may just take that one player in from to wreck havoc in the opposition.

Posted by Pankaj on (March 21, 2011, 17:35 GMT)

a terrific come back from Yuvi....3 fifties and a century

@pan_vtm76 i am not agree with you

Gauti should be there....Sehwag and Sachin are good as openers...if one of them falls cheaply we have Gauti to keep scroeboard moving fast...then Kohli, as he is one of his kinds who can score 50s in almost every matches....Yuvi is in form now and can get into the game faster to score big.Instead of Raina i still prefer Pathan in final 11. He is best at nr. 7.

Dhobi sent him earlier in a few games where he could not do good. Pathan is becoming more mature and conscious about the situation when he is coming to bat. India need him badly in these last 3 games.

Pathan had those wonderful 2 centries in very tensed games. He is useful with hands as well. We have still not seen his best in ongoing WC.

India should play with 2 seamers and should not think about playing with 3 spinners. what if Zak doesn't get break through early?

Bowlers: Bhajji, Ashwin, Zak, Patel

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