September 7, 2012

Waiting for Yuvi

A long-awaited comeback is at hand. How will it pan out?

Ostensibly Saturday's match in Visakhapatnam will be between India and New Zealand. I suspect though that 21 of the 22 players on the field will find themselves largely irrelevant as everyone gets engulfed by the hugely emotional return of Yuvraj Singh to a cricket ground.

Though sport is normally played hard, by people unwilling to concede an inch, you can never divorce it from emotion. And I'm sure it will be that way when Yuvraj takes the field, for his sheer presence, a tribute to what modern medicine and the human spirit can combine to achieve, will stir the feelings like few events in cricket have in recent times. It will tug at the heart. New Zealand will seek to get him out first ball but they will be moved too.

It was an unusual selection, though, for Yuvraj hasn't played a game since chemotherapy ate at his strength but, by all accounts, left his resolve untouched. Ordinarily you would have thought that he needed a couple of games to show if the strength had returned and if he was hitting a ball well enough to keep another player out. It was clearly an emotional selection but also one of solidarity with someone who had played outstandingly for India. I don't think either Australia or, in the present dispensation, England would have picked him as quickly but Indians are an emotional people and you will hardly find anyone contesting his selection.

If Yuvraj is indeed fit and on his way to being the player he was, he changes the balance of the Indian team completely. He did that at the World Cup, when he became the allrounder India were looking for. By doing that he gave India an extra slow-bowling option and allowed a batsman to play at No. 7. In T20 cricket he only needs to bowl four overs, or even three or two.

I will also be watching to see how MS Dhoni handles him. Will he straightaway slot him in at No. 4, which is where he belonged in T20 cricket? Will he slot him in as the fifth bowler straightaway? Or will he let him ease his way in? Knowing Dhoni, I won't be surprised if Yuvraj bowls the first over!

That said, I will be very interested in seeing how he approaches playing for India again. He could get caught up in the moment, play the dramatic hero back from the brink, try too hard to make a statement - indeed, try too hard to prove that he is back to being the player he was. It's a tough one but I hope he doesn't, because then his head could be full of a million thoughts swirling uncontrollably, the mind jumping from one objective to the other and fatally letting the present disappear. Nobody will let him forget the significance of the moment but, peculiarly, he will need to if he has to make the best of it.

I remember talking to Nasser Hussain a couple of years ago about handling pressure, and he spoke of how the very best realise they need to do something special and yet are able to treat the moment like any other. I'm sure surgeons have to do that as they approach a life-saving procedure, engulfed by an overwhelming need to be perfect and yet not letting the pressure come in the way of achieving perfection: of knowing it is important and yet pretending it isn't. Lawyers probably need to feel that way on big days, and I know television anchors need to.

Alternatively, Yuvraj can be the kid on the park, just enjoying chasing a ball and hitting it and looking at every moment as another chance. He can play with freedom, look pressure in the eye and say to it, "Go some other place. I am only playing cricket." Keith Miller said famously after the war that pressure was a Messerschmitt up your backside, that playing cricket was just a celebration.

I hope Yuvraj looks at the rest of his playing career as a celebration, as a lifeline thrown his way. I don't know if he will ever be as good as he was, if he can get your heart racing again by the majesty of his strokeplay. But if he can play like he belongs, that's all he needs - he will tell the world a great story.

I will expect nothing from him, just will him on.

Harsha Bhogle is a commentator, television presenter and writer. His Twitter feed is here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on September 8, 2012, 13:10 GMT

    @KiwiRocker - totally disagree with you. Your stats are wrong by large margin. Yuvi may not be a good test player but he is a great ODI player all over the world. What about the tour of NZ when he won so many matches around 2009-2010. Please know your stats and then comment.

  • Dummy4 on September 8, 2012, 11:57 GMT

    I think Yuvraj will make it back very well in ODIs and T20s, but I think his Test career seems to be dead and buried now, because there are too many young batsman such as Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, Manoj Tiwari gunning for slots in the Test Teamand then there's Unmukt Chand, Prashant Chopra, Baba Aparijith & Smit Patel on the I think Yuvraj will not get a look in Test cricket unless all these individuals mentioned above don't perform, and Bingo, we may even see Mohd. Kaif playing again in Tests for all you know, if Cheteshwar Pujara (who is currently in the Test team) also is tested out at the big stage abroad, coz Kaif has a better Test temperament than Yuvraj....and of course Badrinath has always been on the fringes of Test selection, but selectors don't think positively about him, and due to the fact that he's an old horse!! :)

  • Dummy4 on September 8, 2012, 8:48 GMT

    My objection was to the emotion vs logic statement and the generalization/stereotyping in the article Gizza. One can find enough reason to brand either side with any of the two attributes but there's more to it. One can say a particular incident was emotional or logical but not claim the entire nation to be only one of the two!

  • Dummy4 on September 8, 2012, 7:23 GMT

    @kiwirocker lets ask every writer to write about new zeland cricketers only at one moment you ask him to be unbiased and at next you claim your team's players as worth attention.oh yes write about new zeland so what if they are 8th in both test ranking and one day rankings and so what if they have only one player in top 10 if you consider every form of cricket.but there is nothing worth to write about the man who was man of the tournament in last wc,beat the hell out of a bowler in SA with six consecutive 6's and fought his way back to fit as ever after fighting cancer..

  • Dummy4 on September 8, 2012, 7:02 GMT

    Yeah... All are so practical.. For the guy who actually gave you two world cups... Had Dhoni been there... you all would have been crying your heart out... What young brigade.. same which fails in abroad pitches... Show some respect to the MAN OF THE SERIES in the wins...

  • Dummy4 on September 8, 2012, 5:50 GMT

    Harsha, a well written article reflecting the mood of the nation...! However, from a pure cricketing logic and also for the benefit of Yuvraj, it would have been better to make him wait and start from 1st class cricket gradually on the international arena. It is not because I suspect his credentials ... far from it ... but, a failure here could raise more questions in his mind delaying the total rehabilation.

  • shareef on September 8, 2012, 5:15 GMT

    Personally I am wishing Yuvi for the better comeback and appreciating his tough character. But I don't agree fully with the decision to include Yuvi in the squad. It may ended in a different way. Bringing one player without much practice to the squad always not a right decision. This is not the real way to support Yuvi the best way is to give him more time to recover and participate at least one Ranji season so that he can prove his match fitness. T20 doesn't need much energy conservation is not a real fact it will take more energy from you within the short frame of time. Same thing happened Zak once he brought in to the squad with out checking his fitness against ENG finally he came back from the middle. Unfortunately we people are emotional and not really analyzing the facts. Supporting SRT to extend his career is a fine example.

  • Somaraju on September 8, 2012, 3:10 GMT

    Yuvi, we have no expectations from you. You already gave what we all needed. The WORLD CUP - dream of every Indian Cricket fan. Even if you are half fit you are much much better than so many other cricketers. Welcome back hero. thanks Harsha for such a nice article

  • kannan on September 8, 2012, 1:50 GMT

    take the emotion away from this, and we will realise that it is a mistake to pick him in an international game- no match practice, no fitness assessment..we are setting him upto fail. i wonder how he will be on the field. will he be a good ( not grt) fielder, or will he be like Ashwin?

  • Bobby on September 8, 2012, 1:31 GMT

    Harsha: This is a type of hype that has ended many cricketing careers. It may be better if you write about someone who actually has done something and desrves something written! What about writing something about Tim Southee who made God's and Walls look clueless in India? What about Trent boultt who made so called self proclaimed God take a bow...Yuvraj Singh is a flat track bulley similar to Sehwag who has over the years feasted upon bowling friendly conditions in India. This man is a sitting duck against quality bowling outside India and in test matches! I am tired of reading these biasted articles. Now lets write something more constructive and meaningful before creating all this hype for someone who should not even be in the team. I am gutted for Indian youngesters who have players like Yuvraj and Tendulya blocking their way. These players have become bigger than the game itself!

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