Yuvraj lacks fight, not just form
Most of India's cricketers took just a few days to get over their jet lag. Not Yuvraj Singh who, by the looks of it, has sleepwalked through the first half of the Test series. India began the tour trying to accommodate Yuvraj in the middle order. Five innings on and they've seen the move blow up in their faces.
Yuvraj has nothing in the two Tests to suggest he deserves a spot. More importantly, he seems in a daze. Other batsmen have struggled for runs, too, but they've shown the desire to grind it out. Yuvraj just seems in the wrong place at the wrong time. It's disappointing, simply because of the destructive form he's been in of late.
A whole batting line-up was switched around to accommodate him, the best No. 3 was asked to open. Yuvraj, who had played 20 Tests in his seven-year international career, has waited for this chance all along. He has spoken about the frustrations of sitting on the sidelines and made no bones about Test cricket being his priority. He couldn't have hoped for a better chance, against the best side in their backyard. Now, sadly, he's botched it.
Yuvraj's mental state can be gauged from his fielding. He is supposed to be the team's best fielder but, going by his body language in Melbourne and Sydney, has often been an embarrassment. Normally he's a livewire at point - sliding and stopping the singles - but he's looked disconnected so far. There's also the small matter of an ever-enlarging paunch. To say he is lost would be an understatement.
Rahul Dravid hasn't been in the greatest of form, nor have Wasim Jaffer or Mahendra Singh Dhoni. But each has done his bit to provide some confidence. Dravid gutsed it out in an agonising knock in the first innings in Sydney before finding some rhythm in the second dig. Dhoni fought hard when India were trying to save the match on the final afternoon and Jaffer made the most of a weak bowling attack on the first day in Canberra.
Yuvraj has been too casual, whether it's wafting outside off stump to the metronomic Stuart Clark, or playing back to a flipper from Brad Hogg, or even jabbing at a slightly wide one from Andrew Symonds when India were battling for a draw. Barring Brett Lee's full, swinging delivery in Sydney, he hasn't got out to a great ball. Even that was a classic set up: short, short and full. He has paid for meeting the ball on the move, unlike in Bangalore, where he was assured with his footwork. Some experts have suggested his head isn't still, others have spotted him not taking his initial movement forward, probably fearing the short ball on Australian pitches. All things considered, he's a far better batsman than his scores (0,5,12,0) suggest.
|Yuvraj has been too casual, whether it's wafting outside off stump to the metronomic Stuart Clark, or playing back to a flipper from Brad Hogg, or even flashing at a slightly wide one from Andrew Symonds when India were battling for a draw|
On Thursday, against the ACT Invitational XI bowlers - who might struggle to make a top Ranji Trophy side - he threw it away again. Here was a chance to finally find some form, to hang around and spend some time in the middle. He couldn't have asked for a better time to walk in: India were well set at 210 for 3. He began by cautiously playing out three balls from left-arm spinner Mark Higgs before hanging on for two more balls before tea. After the break he handled a full over from medium-pacer Richard Sherlock before facing up to the left-arm seamer Ash Perera. Faced with one that was slightly short of a length, he responded with a tame waft to gully, slicing the ball without control.
The impression he's made on this trip brings back memories of the tour to West Indies in 2006. He was in the side for the injured Sachin Tendulkar and hardly made an impact in the four Tests. Barring the final Test in Jamaica, the Tests were played on good batting tracks against a largely toothless attack. In a series where five Indian batsmen made hundreds he managed 23, 39, 2, 0, 8 not out, 19, and 13.
What now for Yuvraj? The team no doubt will be wary of including him again, especially given the bouncy reputation of the WACA in Perth. But Yuvraj can first begin by showing the desire. He still has another chance in this game but he can start by bringing his tigerish self on to the field on Friday. He has often galvanised the one-day side with his electric exploits and a more eager approach would only provide the team some confidence.
He might do well, too, to heed Rahul Dravid's advice. "I don't think it should play on his mind," Dravid said when asked if Yuvraj would be under pressure knowing that the rest have done their bit to accommodate him in the side. "Two Test matches back he got a brilliant hundred. He's got to look at that, the successes he's had in one-day cricket over the last 6-8 months and see them as positives. He should not just look at the poor scores on this tour. You've got to be positive and trust yourself. He's got another hit in this game and it could be the one that helps him turn the corner."
He was seen having a long chat with Sachin Tendulkar in the pre-match nets yesterday. It appeared as if they were discussing Yuvraj's head position, with Tendulkar asking him to keep it still. A talk with Sourav Ganguly, the captain who brought the best out of him, would help too. One innings could well turn the corner. That may bring him runs but, more importantly, he needs to find the biggest requisite for cutting it at the Test level: desire.