ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / Features

India v Australia, 2nd quarter-final, World Cup 2011, Ahmedabad

The redemption of Yuvraj and Raina

Before the World Cup, Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina had one thing in common: they were both struggling for form. Now, they have another: a partnership that will go down as one of India's most memorable one-day stands

Sharda Ugra at Motera

March 24, 2011

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Yuvraj Singh roars after taking India to victory, India v Australia, 2nd quarter-final, Ahmedabad, World Cup 2011, March 24, 2011
Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina's partnership saw India book a place in the semi-finals © Associated Press
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Players/Officials: Suresh Raina | Yuvraj Singh
Series/Tournaments: ICC Cricket World Cup
Teams: India

Two left-hand batsmen, two diverse career paths, one partnership. Within a week, India will truly understand just how far Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina took them in this World Cup. On Thursday night, Yuvraj and Raina left Motera like the man they have named its cricket ground after. They were their team's iron men who held up against the driving will of four-time world champions Australia and at the Sardar Patel stadium, lifted their team into the World Cup semi-final.

Their partnership and its significance resonated well after everyone inside Motera had left; the two exhausted and emotionally-spent teams and the 42,000-odd spectators who produced a monstrous wave of sound and support for the Indians. The pigeons who reside in the stadium roof burst into rounds of startled night flight over the cricketers below them as Yuvraj and Raina gave wings to India's World Cup aspirations. Despite four fifties and a century in the match, their sixth-wicket stand of 74 over 10.1 overs was the highest of the game.

Before this World Cup, Yuvraj had been dogged by injury and poor form, his image as a cricketer tattered and taunted at. At the same time, Suresh Raina seceded the young batting tyro spot to Virat Kohli, and was on the verge of finding himself regularly edged out of the Indian World Cup XI due to the power-hitting gifts of Yusuf Pathan. He, first stepped into the team only for the last group game in Chennai, an injury to Virender Sehwag settling that debate for one night. The Raina for Pathan swap in Ahmedabad had been, Dhoni said, because "Raina is technically better and we were keen on batting 50 overs." Raina rested his own case with emphasis on Thursday night.

When he arrived at the crease, there were 12.3 overs left in which India needed 74 more runs with five wickets remaining. It looked reasonable but a clutch of middle-order wickets - Gautam Gambhir was goofishly run-out, Virat Kohli hit a full toss right into Michael Clarke's hands and Dhoni cut Brett Lee in his second spell straight to point - had brought about a rumbling of anxiety. One more wicket and the tail was exposed. One more mistake and India could say good bye to its World Cup. These were not Associates nor main line underperformers, these were the monstrous Australians, non-stop World Cup winners for 12 years, men capable of ripping throats to extract victory.

At the other end, Yuvraj watched with alarm as Lee's stinging wicket maiden sent Dhoni back. It was, he said afterwards, "a bit of a shock" to lose a trusted partner. It was his ever-growing World Cup equanimity, that had him coolly set about making new calculations. "I just thought that if I could have a 30-40 run partnership with Suresh, we can take it till the end," Yuvraj said.

Through this World Cup, Yuvraj has remained the fulcrum of India's batting; the centre who has held it together through top-order wobbles and Powerplay collapses. He told Raina to ignore the climbing asking rate and take his time. "I told him I know we are chasing a run-rate of six, but play a few balls, see what is happening around and let us get a 20-30 run partnership."

Raina began his innings with three dot balls from Lee's wicket maiden and the bowlers were shown respect in four of the next 11 balls. In the first half of his 28 ball innings, Raina was made to play seven of his eight dot balls. Once the frugal few were out of the way, he did his best to rotate strike for Yuvraj and put his head above water, to pounce on anything slightly lenient by the bowling.

It was as if using the drib-drab philosophy of these two partners is what broke Australia and its ambitions down. The fielding still stayed committed but the backups began to get wayward, bodies were flung in the direction of the ball but the throws began to return to the centre of the wicket. Ricky Ponting called his two 6th wicket adversaries, "terrific." Their control of their innings, he said, "didn't allow us back in the game." It was a typical Raina innings, as support cast to senior colleague, but what made it exceptional was where it had materialised. In a World Cup knock out game against a high quality opposition. Men of lesser will could have melted.

Again, it was Raina who broke free the spell of the Brett Lee wicket maiden with a muscular pull to the boundary in his very next over. Two balls later Yuvraj stepped in with two boundaries to attack the rhythm and confidence of the opposition's leading strike bowler. It is perhaps 40th over that actually established that the match was now India's for the taking.

Yuvraj said Raina had a run of average games earlier but Thursday's performance, "showed Suresh's nerve in a very crucial stage.That must have given him a lot of confidence," Raina on Thursday was more than second fiddle to an older partner. He was a more than handy decoy for diverting the aggressive attention of the bowlers. In Ahmedabad, Raina was the perfect foil to Yuvraj's epee. The senior man laid out for his younger colleague the manner in which to lead a chase, by breaking it down to a simple instruction, to stay grounded. The ball on terra firma, the eyes focussed on the next clutch of runs, to obliterate panic through partnership.

When Yuvraj crossed his fifty, there was no bat-stabbing at those sitting outside the dressing room. He just put his head down and crossed over to his crease because his job was not actually over. When it did end, close to 11pm, the winning runs were manufactured by a flashy, lofted cover drive over the infield. He then broke free, pulled out a football-style slide on the turf and let himself roar. Raina sprinted across the length of the pitch and leapt into his arms, the PA system began playing thumping celebratory music and the ground began to reverberate.

This partnership will entrench iself in India's ODI folklore. It will be remembered alongside other stands like Ganguly-Dravid in Taunton, in the 1999 World Cup, or Yuvraj-Kaif in the 2002 Natwest Trophy final or Dravid-Yuvraj in the 2003 World Cup game against Pakistan in Centurion. Yuvraj's presence in three of India's most memorable one-day stands has already set him aside to be thought of, according to Sanjay Manjrekar, as "one of the all time greats in 50 overs cricket." If Raina pays close attention, he may be able to understand what it takes to get that far.

Sharda Ugra is senior editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Comments: 31 
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Posted by dummy4fb on (March 27, 2011, 11:49 GMT)

I have always been an admirer of Raina not only for his technical (and gear-changing) abilities, but also for his lightning fielding, and am happy that Dhoni did not mess up this time against Aussies, and rightly selected him ahead of Pathan!! And see how this partnership between Yuvi and Raina blossomed into a match-winning performance!!!

Posted by drnanda on (March 27, 2011, 9:04 GMT)

great captancy by ms dhoni...

Posted by cbesud2009 on (March 27, 2011, 3:26 GMT)

Raina not only helped get the 74 runs, but I thought his fielding in the inner ring was outstanding and was instrumental in raising the overall fielding effort of the team. Dare I say this... Drop Kohli and bring in Pathan. Move Yuvaraj to No. 4 and Dhoni to No. 5. Its high time Dhoni did something with the bat. He has been the biggest nonperformer of this WC in the Indian team I think this was the best team combination until Raina lost form and let Kohli in. This way Pathan's offspin and his threat of lower order hitting especially against Pakistan's spin attack will be there

Posted by dummy4fb on (March 26, 2011, 23:10 GMT)

All you people are talking, India has won, and look out Pakistan!!! are much easier said than done. Indian team I support. For India to win this WC they'll have to beat Pakistan & Sri Lanka in their final two games. To do that, they'll have to be prepare to chase in excess of 300 or post totals well above the 300 mark. Australia was a week link in this WC. So don't read into that victory too much. For India to post huge totals or chase them down, they'll need to have Yousuf in there in middle overs of spin especially, which is Pakistan trump card, and what they're banking on. If india loose Sehwag early, they'll need a fire power to replace him, and there's no one other than Y.Pathan to fill in. So think carefully India and don't trow it away this time. It's there for the taking, you have the resoreces, use it properly and the WC is yours.

Posted by dummy4fb on (March 26, 2011, 18:53 GMT)

this win incredible amd above to all.

Posted by SachinLara1 on (March 26, 2011, 4:55 GMT)

six of the 1st ball in batting powerplay of Lee....well done Raina...n Yuvi s excellent....

Posted by calvin_n on (March 25, 2011, 22:08 GMT)

India has emerged and peaked at the right time..BEWARE!!!

Posted by Tansah on (March 25, 2011, 20:30 GMT)

Well played India. So, now we have a India-Pakistan Semi-Final. I'm a Pakistan fan but I think that India may just have the edge but I'm happy as long as it's a good game with flawless sportsmanship by BOTH teams.

Posted by dummy4fb on (March 25, 2011, 18:13 GMT)

Yuvraj 2.0 is turning out to be a more potent weapon for India than before. Shame on folks who were questioning his side in the team!

Posted by sehwagian on (March 25, 2011, 17:49 GMT)

yes sanjay manjrekar is correct. UV is one of the greatest one day player given his pure class and exquisite in batting.. his brilliance in fielding and usefulness in bowling... but boy if he is in form his batting is some thing out of the world ... there may be laras jayasuriyas and haydens but none come close in grace ... timing and ability to hit any any ball to boundries if required is some thing I havent seen in any modern great batter. Even though i am an ardent fan of viru ... but in form i trust UV more than any one in indian team for that matter even sachin .... Dhoni used to be like that for some time but he is no more a batsem/wk he is a wk/bat ....UV rocks and India is gona win this title .....

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