Yuvraj has a ball with the ball
Yuvraj Singh is perhaps one of the more irritating bowlers to face, certainly one of the more amusing to watch and arguably one of the most enjoyable to write about. What does he do to get under the skin of quality batsmen like Kevin Pietersen and what does he have to get a hat-trick in a Twenty20 game? It's too easy to dismiss it as luck for there is intelligence - street smartness, perhaps - in his bowling.
Let's get the amusing part out of the way. Look at how he ambles in to bowl, almost like a Sunday park bowler. For someone who used to throw himself around on the field like a kid, Yuvraj has always looked old as a bowler, aged while he was still young. There is an almost disinterested air about as he sways in - a jog conjures up too strong a visual - to bowl as if to say, 'I have been asked to bowl, so here I am. Do what you want with my pies'. It's not a carefully developed act of deception; it is how he bowls.
Here is where Yuvraj's street smartness shows. He can turn the ball slightly but what he does do cleverly is vary his pace by using a scrambled seam. He is usually slow, slower and not so slow but can surprise the batsmen - like Mark Boucher today - with his quick one.
Before the one to Boucher, Yuvraj had produced his best ball - a skidding arm-ball - to beat the defenses of a shocked Jacques Kallis. And just before that, he had bowled his most clever ball, the first of the hat-trick, to get rid of Robin Uthappa. He had sensed Uthappa was preparing to go after him and the mode of attack would be the slog sweep. Yuvraj could have fired it in but instead, he floated the ball wider outside off stump and Uthappa fell while attempting to fetch it from there. As the catch was held, Yuvraj turned around and shot him an 'I told you so' look.
Along came Boucher. It was the first ball of a new over and it was almost predictable that Yuvraj would bowl an arm-ball. It's his only genuine wicket-taking ball, especially when the batsmen are not going after him - he tries to slide it in and get an lbw decision - and also, the one he turns to when he is really desperate to stem the runs. Boucher knew it wouldn't turn but looked to work it to the leg side and was caught in front. Yuvraj was away even before he had appealed or the finger went up. Suddenly he stopped, shouted out an appeal, saw the finger going up and went berserk, ending up finally at deep midwicket before being enveloped in a hug by Simon Katich.
He nearly won the game for Punjab with the bat as well but was out-thought by Anil Kumble, who did what Yuvraj did to Uthappa. Kumble made him fetch a googly from outside off and Yuvraj fell while going for another six.
Karna S is a freelance cricket writer