Delhi Daredevils v Royal Challengers, IPL 2014, Sharjah April 18, 2014

Beleaguered Yuvraj tees off to Sharjah's delight

Yuvraj Singh was hardly convincing to begin with against Delhi, but a big dose of crowd support and a helping of poor bowling meant he had the opportunity to hint at a possible return to form

"I've got a feeling," sang the PA system at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium, not long after Yuvraj Singh had walked in to bat. Before the song could proceed any further, and declare that Thursday night was going to be a good night, the DJ stopped it abruptly. He or she was a Yuvraj fan, perhaps, and didn't want to put a jinx on him.

This was Yuvraj's first innings since that 21-ball 11 in the World T20 final, and his first innings since a group of fans had reacted unreasonably to that 21-ball 11. It was also his first innings for Bangalore, who had paid a not untidy sum of money to buy him at the auction, despite the fact that he hadn't made a half-century in his last 19 IPL innings.

The man at the other end, meanwhile, was Virat Kohli, whom he had denied the strike during that 21-ball 11. Kohli, Bangalore's captain, had played a persuasive role in signing him.

This, then, wasn't just another innings.

Yuvraj couldn't have chosen a more congenial setting in which to begin such an innings. He had the crowd's sympathy, yes, but he would have had that at any stadium; only a tiny fraction of sports fans, surely, are mean enough to revel in a player's house reportedly getting stoned. Sharjah, though, was also showing itself to be a stronghold of Bangalore fans.

In India, it's often hard to get an accurate picture of the extent of home support at the league's venues. At most stadiums, someone has placed a home-team flag on your seat well before you've parked your car. Most emcees, meanwhile, only ask the crowd to cheer for the home team. If you support the other team, you seldom get a chance to voice it. Here, given equal opportunity to cheer for either side, the Sharjah crowd voted with their vocal cords.

Granted, for the most part, the spectators did or chanted whatever the emcee asked them to, no matter how ridiculous it made them look or sound. What they didn't do, though, was chant "Delhiiiiiiiii, Delhi!" Each time the emcee tried to get them to follow his lead, they drowned him out with shouts of "R-C-B! R-C-B!"

It was as much a show of approval for Bangalore as it was a sign of Delhi's lack of appeal. They haven't tasted too much success in past seasons, and, perhaps because of that, haven't retained an easily identifiable core group of star players. For Bangalore, on the other hand, the signing of Yuvraj added yet another highly marketable name to an already swollen roster. It cost them a lot of money to sign him and that may well have caused gaps to form in other areas of their squad, but Sharjah didn't seem too concerned. As soon as Yuvraj had swung Rahul Sharma over long-on for his first six, a bearded man in a red T-shirt held up a hand-drawn banner. "More risk = More profit," it said. "Great bid Mr Mallya."

There is no doubt Bangalore and Yuvraj had all the support they could possibly hope for. It is far too early to say with any certainty, though, that Yuvraj has turned a corner with his unbeaten 52.

At the start of his innings, he was late on a couple of short balls from Mohammed Shami, both of which went whistling off his top edge. Right after that over, Dinesh Karthik, Delhi's captain, took Shami off when he still had an over left. Having survived those few discomfiting deliveries, life became much easier for Yuvraj, with Jimmy Neesham serving up length balls and Rahul Sharma dropping his legbreaks right into his hitting zone.

Sometimes, though, you want bowlers to feed Yuvraj's strengths, just to marvel at the way he strikes the ball. One pick-up shot off Neesham left you missing your TV, left you wanting to watch slow-motion replays from 15 different angles. Since that wasn't possible in the West Stand at Sharjah, you wanted the DJ to at least play the rest of that song.

Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on April 20, 2014, 9:45 GMT

    Yuvi was set by death overs, dhoni had just come so dhoni cannot be criticised. ...........

    Kohli was lone warrior with SR of 150 & yuvi wasn't even able to give strike back to him let alone himself hitting a few boundaries. He had no method, no timing

    But it wasn't his fault, It is Dhoni's fault that he keeps playing his favorite players & yuvi being one of them

  • Cricinfouser on April 19, 2014, 10:31 GMT

    Yuvraj and Sehwag are in the same category: UNRELIABLE, BUT CAN ASTOUND YOU on their days (when you least expect them to)!

  • sudaththa on April 19, 2014, 2:23 GMT

    Wait and see how he will face to Malinga... Lol.

  • Yogesh on April 19, 2014, 0:45 GMT

    Once again, Yuvraj Singh and all his blind followers are missing one blindingly obvious fact - he USED to be very good at finishing matches. He no longer is today. I just hope he doesn't play a few good innings against sub-standard bowling and everyone starts touting him for the next WC. Not for nothing were Australia the best for almost two decades - they were ruthless at showing the door to star performers when they had started going downhill, even when they were still capable of producing great performances.

    India on the other hand produces cricketers of the mentality Yuvraj has just shown here. Sorry, Yuvi, it doesn't matter what you have done. We will salute you for that. If you want a place in any team TODAY, you have to perform, you cannot rest on past laurels. We the fans have a right to be ruthless about this, sorry. You earn millions while you are good and get showered with plaudits. Be prepared to cop criticism when you cost India the World Cup, as you recently did!

  • Balbir on April 18, 2014, 20:59 GMT

    In the last 24 balls, India scored a total of 19 runs. Yuvraj scored 4 of 9 and Kohli+Dhoni scored 15 of 15, with Dhoni getting just 4 of 7. Even Kohli and Dhoni found it difficult to score. So let's give the credit where it's due. SL bowled superbly in the death overs. Yuvraj was just a little worse than others.

  • Dummy4 on April 18, 2014, 12:16 GMT

    @Salman Sadiq: If you say IPL is substandard cricket.. you r watching cricket for the first time i think. @NP_NY: Buddy.. you what happens when an elephant walks its path..

  • Kashi on April 18, 2014, 12:03 GMT

    Just want to take back what I said - that my blog will not get published if I say anything critical of IPL. I see them being published - thanks cricinfo for allowing contrarian point of view, Truth can be hard to swallow but it is what it is!

  • N on April 18, 2014, 11:11 GMT

    @LALITHKURUWITA: Oh don't worry. Bangalore also has Kohli, the "Malinga killer". No one can forget how he annihilated Malinga in that one-day game in Australia. In fact the only time Malinga has succeeded against India is the last T20 game. Otherwise Indian players have always had Malinga's number.

  • N on April 18, 2014, 11:08 GMT

    @Salman Sadiq: Don't like IPL? Feel free to not watch it or not comment here. But the fact that you cannot stay off this forum tells me that you are secretly interested in the IPL :). Oh by the way, it was international T20 where Yuvi hit six 6's in an over against an international fast bowler. Name one other player in the world who has done that in international T20.

  • Dummy on April 18, 2014, 9:52 GMT

    Its been a very nice entry for the most of the new players in bangalore, if u could see that chahal and aaron get the first wicket in their first overs itself and even maddinson found the boundary in the first ever boll he has faced. though he could not carry on, other side it was patel who has anchored the win for rcb in his first game itself. There are no words to describe the innings of both kohli and Yuvraj. Though i am an Rcb fan i would love see Yuvraj to shine so that he can get back in the blue jersey of the team INDIA.

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