India v Australia, 3rd ODI, Delhi October 31, 2009

A partnership made in batting heaven

Yuvraj is stylish and makes batting look easy; Dhoni works hard without bothering about aesthetics. And yet, when they combine, they produce something special

Batting together in the middle-order, MS Dhoni and Yuvraj Singh have saved matches, brought about momentum shifts, set up victories and accomplished so much more in only 49 partnerships. They are an odd pair: Yuvraj is stylish and makes batting look easy; Dhoni works hard without bothering about aesthetics. And yet, when they combine, they produce something special. To the list of great middle-over associations - Arjuna Ranatunga and Aravinda de Silva, Inzamam-ul-Haq and Mohammad Yousuf, Michael Bevan and Steve Waugh - Dhoni and Yuvraj can easily be added.

When Dhoni joined Yuvraj at the Feroz Shah Kotla, India had slipped from 37 for 0 to 53 for 3, only 16 runs had come from the last 6.4 overs, and the Kotla pitch appeared as devious as it did during the Champions League. Both batsmen looked ungainly and unconvincing initially and scored only 19 in the next six overs. Then Yuvraj broke his shackles without taking any risks by sweeping Nathan Hauritz to fine leg and flicking Moises Henriques to midwicket for fours in back-to-back overs. They were at it again.

Then they started running on intuition, turning three-fourths into ones, and one and three-quarters into twos. There were some poor calls too, but that didn't lead to mistrust between the batsmen. Odd boundaries came but the run-rate was not an issue, sensible batting was. Around the 34th over, they realised the team was out of danger and, even before the ball was changed, Yuvraj opened up. His classy hitting met Dhoni's awkwardness perfectly as it so often does. Batting together in the middle-order, they have now scored 1991 runs. None of the pairs that have scored more are in business now. Today's 148 was their ninth century partnership. For a change they were separated before victory, but Dhoni is not the man for late twists.

The Kotla pitch took batsmen out of their comfort zones but, with each other, Dhoni and Yuvraj find comfort and in their case familiarity breeds runs. Dhoni has often spoken of the reassurance Yuvraj brings. As a batsman Dhoni knows he doesn't need to take risks as long as Yuvraj is around. As a captain Dhoni knows Yuvraj is his go-to man, his Powerplay specialist and his finisher. That Dhoni is a surer captain when Yuvraj is playing is obvious.

Coincidentally it's for the same reasons that Yuvraj likes batting with Dhoni. "I am very comfortable batting with him," he said. "Our running between the wickets has always been good and, whenever there is pressure on me, Mahi [Dhoni] is someone who can get the odd boundary. He has become a bit slow, but he still manages a boundary when the pressure is on. Last game he was fantastic. I think he deserved to be Man of the Match today."

There share mutual respect, banter and a sense of purpose. One can sense when the other is under pressure and both are capable of doing something about it. As Yuvraj said in jest, Dhoni has slowed down a bit, but he can hustle the opposition; he has strength too, to run endlessly or hit sudden powerful shots. Theirs is an instinctive partnership. "We don't really assign goals, we play according to the situation," Yuvraj said.

Dhoni has made a lot of his ODI runs in Yuvraj's presence. But Yuvraj has added more with Rahul Dravid than he has done with Dhoni. When asked to compare batting with both those batsmen, Yuvraj gave glimpses into why he was enjoying batting with Dhoni more. "They are both different types of players," Yuvraj said. "Mahi is more dynamic … not these days. Rahul was more, you know, picking up the singles, getting into partnerships. Mahi is someone who can obviously make it up in the end. No doubt Rahul Dravid is a great player, but the way Dhoni bats in one-day cricket is something we should all learn from."

There's a higher level of comfort with Dhoni. In three minutes Yuvraj made three jokes about Dhoni, but paid him three rich compliments too. While Yuvraj-Dravid was a profitable partnership while it lasted, Dravid was a senior and perhaps Yuvraj didn't express himself as completely as he does in Dhoni's presence.

His relationship with Dhoni could easily have been complex. Yuvraj would have had captaincy ambitions when Dravid resigned and Virender Sehwag was out of the side, but it was Dhoni, about a hundred ODIs his junior, who was chosen to lead India. That doesn't come in either man's way.

For Yuvraj tonight's 78, with his team in strife on the slowest one-day surface he has played on, was a personally satisfying performance. "I often get criticism from you guys [the media] that I don't play well on slow wickets, that I am not a good player of spin, so it's always a challenge for me to prove you guys wrong, and I did that well today."

It was his day and yet Yuvraj said Dhoni should have been Man of the Match. Had Dhoni been given the award, he would have said the same thing about Yuvraj.

Sidharth Monga is a staff writer at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • shane on November 1, 2009, 22:26 GMT

    Aussies gonna strike back n win this series 5-2...And if india wud have been missing as much players as aus r i dont think india wud have been able to compete as aus r..Aussies r gonna hit india hard n the 4th odi!!! Cmon Aussie!!!!!!!!

  • pradeep on November 1, 2009, 15:42 GMT

    i dont know what the hell is arvin is talkin. in 2007 world cup everyone faileed sachin and dhoni got 0 against srilanka and we lost the cup. all blame is goin to dravid. he fought for shewag and irfan and didnt get them. he won odi series against south africa which was india's first in foriegn soil won series against eng and wi. so dont always blame dravid. he is the most selfless cricketer ever to play for india. sachin is a great player but also the worst captain india had. if he is enjoyin the game and wants to play more people accept it. but when it comes to kumble,ganguly and dravid this is not the case. if sachin fails in 5 to 9 matches he is supported by bcci but for dravid 5 bad matches in 2007 he was removed from odi. this is the way others are treated

  • Harish on November 1, 2009, 15:40 GMT

    @Arvin: We are talking Cricket here (perhaps you were alluding to some other game). Dravid plays for the other team to win??? Dude, you are talking about the guy who earned us our greatest victories and never took the easy way out. Dravid offers to open in Tests and play # 4 in ODIs and not the other way around (unlike some legends). Not for him the easy fields and shine off the ball. Amen.

  • Rahul on November 1, 2009, 15:37 GMT

    Haha...another sucker called JackJak! Listen bro, I think you've started watching cricket from 2009 i guess . India toured WI in 2006. They beat 'em there. They toured England in 2007, they beat 'em as well which your so-called Champion side couldn't do it in 2 chances. We toured Kiwi-Land, beat 'em as well. I'll agree to the known fact that in the past India has struggled a lot on foreign pitches. But this team is different. They have been unfortunate on occasions but no excuses, they need 2 pull up their socks & move on. As for the Aussies, they beat teams like Kiwis, English in the champs trophy, BIG DEAL. Pakistan nearly strangled them. If ur saying dat their half side ain't there. Then what abt the CB series in 2008. You guys had all your top players then. So what went wrong? Aussies were beaten in their own backyard. Ur saying the quality of pitches here are horrible. FYI, the Aussies have always been a bunch of suckers against spin bowling & will continue to be so. So suck it up

  • Natarajan on November 1, 2009, 14:41 GMT

    Sachin is an over-rated player???? KiwiRocker you seems to be a kiddo watching cricket. Grow up man!!!

  • arvin on November 1, 2009, 13:53 GMT

    kiwirocker overrated sachin really rocked kiwis during lindia's last visit to nz... guess you are still being haunted by that... and dravid was not only in team but captain 2007 and all knows what happened to india then... it is only foreign coaches/captains or players particulary from nz/aus who want dravid in india's 1-day team coz they know he will mostly play for them to win...

  • Sushil on November 1, 2009, 13:49 GMT

    If India had batted first then India would have struggled too.. the australians had to bowl with a wet soap so it wasnt a game to really talk about. If India had bowled second we would have been thrashed. When one cant grip the ball how can the win be termed creditable. Of course its not india's fault that there is dew but one should look at these kind of games from a fuller perspective and lets not say Oh India did this and that. Also half their players are not there..No brett lee. no payne. no haddin no clark no bracken. So stop the hype. Look at what India wins when it comes to Big Tournaments...Absolutely 0. Australia are miles ahead. india is good only in these kind of sick grounds where the ball bounces knee height.

  • anand on November 1, 2009, 13:43 GMT

    Mr.KiwiRocker....i dont think it's 4th string austrilain team.....with the likes of ricky ponting, mike hussey, shane watson, mitchell johnson, nathan can u call any team...4th string.......

  • anand on November 1, 2009, 13:38 GMT

    I would like to comment upon what Mr.POPCORN has to say......I dont think umpiring is be below par. Not atleast when we compare to what happens when teams visit to australia......Yes, i agree to fact that there should be atleast one neutral umpire.... Firstly, I completely agree with ricky ponting decision. It was dead straight. Even hawkeye showed that ball would have hit middle stump. Same with cameron white. Technology showed that ball actually clipped bat before hitting that pad. Coming to YUVI's bad decision....which usually happens in any game....But i believe that aussies should have given one good practice session before the game

  • Anirban on November 1, 2009, 13:34 GMT

    Aussies are in for a huge challenge ahead,and it seems every match would be even more tougher for them..Ponting instead of being a muppet and over emphasizing on his so called complains,should focus more on the game.The kitchen is hot here,if aussies can stand the heat, they should stay out of the kitchen

  • No featured comments at the moment.