October 12, 2013

The king of comebacks

The fact that he was on the brink of being pushed out, and running out of time, makes Yuvraj's latest return even sweeter
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Aakash Chopra on the perennial comeback man

Comebacks are always fascinating, for there's no better story than one of persistence till a point of cathartic redemption. Yuvraj Singh has made many - in cricket, and in life. But the one he made in Rajkot this week, playing his best T20 knock, against Australia, will surely be a defining one. The fact that he was down and on the brink of being pushed out, and running out of time, made this comeback sweeter.

This wasn't the first time the world saw Yuvraj play a determined, decisive knock. Yet it has been a while since we saw the man in his element. He did show glimpses of his glorious past on his comeback after defeating cancer too, but unfortunately those turned out to be only glimpses. This time, though, it looks a lot different, he looks a lot more resolute.

His knock of 77 not out transported me to the winter of 2004, when he scored a century in each innings of a Duleep Trophy final. I vividly remember Yuvraj playing a defensive prod to a medium-pacer - it was as defensive as it could be, off the front foot with no flourish, with no intent to hit an attacking shot. I stood at the non-striker's end as the ball sped down the ground before the bowler could intercept it in his follow-through. It all happened in such a jiffy that the mid-off fielder could find no time to even attempt to cover the ten yards to his left to try and prevent the four. Yuvraj was in his pomp.

While one can attribute Yuvraj's beautiful timing to a high, whirling backlift, where the bat comes down at just the right time to meet the ball, you can truly admire his extraordinary abilities only if you've played the sport, and especially if you've been a batsman. For that's when you realise that Yuvraj's finesse makes the most arduous shots look like a cakewalk, much like that defensive prod that fetched him four.

The high backlift has been the very essence of his batting, giving him immense power, the power that he wields to such great effect. But that same high backlift, which is your best friend when you're in form, becomes your worst enemy when you're out of it. Batting is all about your eyes being synchronised - seeing the ball released from the bowler's hand - your mind processing the information and deciding how to react, and your body getting into the right position to execute a response. If any part of this chain is not working at its optimum, you're doomed.

Yuvraj is not only picking the length as early as he used to in his heyday, he is also getting into the right positions quickly enough to dispatch deliveries to the fence

Unfortunately this was evident a year ago when Yuvraj was either unable to pick the length and the line of the ball early enough, or wasn't physically fit enough to get into the right positions. Whatever it may have been, short-pitched deliveries were regularly perturbing him, and even some spinners found ways to tether him. Big shots, which he rarely mistimes, were finding the inside- or the outside half of the bat often.

Yuvraj doesn't rely too heavily on moving his feet against the spinners, and makes up for it with strength, an intent to attack, and clarity of thought. But against Saeed Ajmal and James Tredwell earlier this year, even those attributes were clearly absent. Yuvraj clearly looked undercooked back then. His intent had got him back to the field, but his skill was yet to be polished.

This time, though, even though the sample size is only 35 balls, it seems Yuvraj has turned another corner. Not only is he picking the length as early as he used to in his heyday, he is also getting into the right positions quickly enough to dispatch deliveries to the fence.

The other thing that might have gone slightly unnoticed is his running between the wickets. The way Yuvraj ran with MS Dhoni during their 102-run stand was further evidence that he is well and truly back. There's still a minor technical blip in his batting - his head falls a little too much to the off side - but I'm sure that with runs under his belt, it's only a matter of time before he sorts that out too.

The work he has done in France to get back in top physical shape is apparent enough. Now it's up to him to continue to bat this way, for a fit and in-form Yuvraj Singh is integral to India's chances of defending the World Cup in 2015.

Former India opener Aakash Chopra is the author of Out of the Blue, an account of Rajasthan's 2010-11 Ranji Trophy victory. His website is here and his Twitter feed here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • POSTED BY Vikashraj010 on | October 16, 2013, 6:32 GMT

    Do you guys believe in "Value-for-Money" thing?? I will tell you one thing, start thinking of your dream one-day team for INDIA and you will know how important this man is. You leave no. 5 spot (which is Yuvi's position undoubtedly) , just think about no.6 spot and the man comes in there is MSD, Now you have to go back and think about your options, you will also choose yuvi. Its like sahrukh's romantic movies man, he will spread his arm and the WOO girls will come out. Man, dada gave birth to him but MSD nurtured him. The two can chase any thing down. Perfect finishers!!!! I bet these two will be in my grandson's dream team also. Please do not talk about technique , technique is on vacation after sachin and dravid. You want to see beautiful batting watch the videos of so-many-players. These two will show you how to finish matches, they comes into the ground with silent crowd and unsolved two-variable linear equation and when they leave its just high decibels there. !!!

  • POSTED BY NonStriker on | October 13, 2013, 21:52 GMT

    Yuvraj's comeback from Cancer is an inspiring story but I really fail to see what the hype is about as a player. His test record defines mediocre and the idea that a man with 26 first class wickets in 15 years can be called an "all rounder" by anyone is laughable.

  • POSTED BY skmohanty on | October 13, 2013, 18:30 GMT

    Definitely a gifted player and true fighter. The amazing thing is he is a big match player. I, however, beg to differ it was his best T20 innings. The 70 off 30 balls innings in WC 2007 semifinal was by far his best and one of the best T20 innings ever. As far as T20 and ODI are concerned, Yuvi is perfect!! He however should aim for one of the two open spots in Test team (He needs work on his technique, specially outside off stump and shortish stuffs for that matter though). I'm not convinced about Jaddu's test skills. Yuvi'd be much better all rounder in Test in my opinion.

  • POSTED BY Pathiyal on | October 13, 2013, 8:31 GMT

    "when he was not well he won a world cup for india" :-)

  • POSTED BY on | October 13, 2013, 8:27 GMT

    One of the greatest fighters and cricketers in the world. He is the true star of Indian cricket

  • POSTED BY sportofpain on | October 13, 2013, 3:09 GMT

    Yuvi has a gift which few others have in world cricket. His clean hitting ability. India is harnessing this well I think and we should make sure he is managed well so he can peak at the 2015 WC which we will be defending. If he plays tests he can be an asset there too - remember than in his comeback games against England he got two fifties - if they had been hundreds, it would have been outstanding. But even if he doesn't play tests his contribution to Indian wins is second to none - the T20 WC and the 2011 WC had Yuvi's imprint all over them.

  • POSTED BY Shaan99 on | October 13, 2013, 2:32 GMT

    Those who r criticizing Yuvi.. First say that is there and batsman after in the world after Yuvraj who can play like Chris Gayle.. No.. Even he strikes better than Gayle.. And infact he is more dangerous than one i d world.. Just look his intensity when he play.. Have You wonder what he would have done if he get chance to play as a opener.. Gayle record may vanish.. And Even everyone enjoyed that kind of sixes after 9 months.. Between these months India were winning the matches.. But there was not so much of entertain without Yuvi.Gambhir and Sehwag.. And now only Yuvi is entertaining alone.. So what would have happen if Gambhir or Sehwag joins in d team instead of lazy NOHIT SHARMA

  • POSTED BY on | October 12, 2013, 20:35 GMT

    Guys - it is not the # of runs Yuvaraj scored OR the shots he executed, but the way Yuvaraj was carrying himself in that game that give us hope that the original Yuvi might be back. If that is the result of a 3 month stint at France, I would suggest that the BCCI sponsors a similar stint for Sehwag. If Sehwag's fitnes improves & he regains his hand-eye co-ordination. Sehwag & Dhawan opening together....just imagine !

  • POSTED BY SamRoy on | October 12, 2013, 19:27 GMT

    Akash since you want to focus on his technique let me tell you a bit about his footwork against the moving ball. It is non-existent! Thats why he has struggled against swinging ball, seaming ball as well as really top-quality spin (except the couple of times he got on top of Murali). He is the first Indian batsman who is more comfortable to play the sweep rather than dancing down the track and playing it mid-off or mid-on. Also weakness outside off and weakness against well thought of surprise quick bouncer (Some bowlers overdo the bouncer, I am not talking about them).

  • POSTED BY android_user on | October 12, 2013, 18:27 GMT

    While Akash chose to focus on technique, what really stood out was the strength of character, the determination and an almost eerie calmness. I don't know where the zen like demeanour came from. A new Yuvi perhaps!! Yet to be proven on seaming wickets though.

  • POSTED BY Vikashraj010 on | October 16, 2013, 6:32 GMT

    Do you guys believe in "Value-for-Money" thing?? I will tell you one thing, start thinking of your dream one-day team for INDIA and you will know how important this man is. You leave no. 5 spot (which is Yuvi's position undoubtedly) , just think about no.6 spot and the man comes in there is MSD, Now you have to go back and think about your options, you will also choose yuvi. Its like sahrukh's romantic movies man, he will spread his arm and the WOO girls will come out. Man, dada gave birth to him but MSD nurtured him. The two can chase any thing down. Perfect finishers!!!! I bet these two will be in my grandson's dream team also. Please do not talk about technique , technique is on vacation after sachin and dravid. You want to see beautiful batting watch the videos of so-many-players. These two will show you how to finish matches, they comes into the ground with silent crowd and unsolved two-variable linear equation and when they leave its just high decibels there. !!!

  • POSTED BY NonStriker on | October 13, 2013, 21:52 GMT

    Yuvraj's comeback from Cancer is an inspiring story but I really fail to see what the hype is about as a player. His test record defines mediocre and the idea that a man with 26 first class wickets in 15 years can be called an "all rounder" by anyone is laughable.

  • POSTED BY skmohanty on | October 13, 2013, 18:30 GMT

    Definitely a gifted player and true fighter. The amazing thing is he is a big match player. I, however, beg to differ it was his best T20 innings. The 70 off 30 balls innings in WC 2007 semifinal was by far his best and one of the best T20 innings ever. As far as T20 and ODI are concerned, Yuvi is perfect!! He however should aim for one of the two open spots in Test team (He needs work on his technique, specially outside off stump and shortish stuffs for that matter though). I'm not convinced about Jaddu's test skills. Yuvi'd be much better all rounder in Test in my opinion.

  • POSTED BY Pathiyal on | October 13, 2013, 8:31 GMT

    "when he was not well he won a world cup for india" :-)

  • POSTED BY on | October 13, 2013, 8:27 GMT

    One of the greatest fighters and cricketers in the world. He is the true star of Indian cricket

  • POSTED BY sportofpain on | October 13, 2013, 3:09 GMT

    Yuvi has a gift which few others have in world cricket. His clean hitting ability. India is harnessing this well I think and we should make sure he is managed well so he can peak at the 2015 WC which we will be defending. If he plays tests he can be an asset there too - remember than in his comeback games against England he got two fifties - if they had been hundreds, it would have been outstanding. But even if he doesn't play tests his contribution to Indian wins is second to none - the T20 WC and the 2011 WC had Yuvi's imprint all over them.

  • POSTED BY Shaan99 on | October 13, 2013, 2:32 GMT

    Those who r criticizing Yuvi.. First say that is there and batsman after in the world after Yuvraj who can play like Chris Gayle.. No.. Even he strikes better than Gayle.. And infact he is more dangerous than one i d world.. Just look his intensity when he play.. Have You wonder what he would have done if he get chance to play as a opener.. Gayle record may vanish.. And Even everyone enjoyed that kind of sixes after 9 months.. Between these months India were winning the matches.. But there was not so much of entertain without Yuvi.Gambhir and Sehwag.. And now only Yuvi is entertaining alone.. So what would have happen if Gambhir or Sehwag joins in d team instead of lazy NOHIT SHARMA

  • POSTED BY on | October 12, 2013, 20:35 GMT

    Guys - it is not the # of runs Yuvaraj scored OR the shots he executed, but the way Yuvaraj was carrying himself in that game that give us hope that the original Yuvi might be back. If that is the result of a 3 month stint at France, I would suggest that the BCCI sponsors a similar stint for Sehwag. If Sehwag's fitnes improves & he regains his hand-eye co-ordination. Sehwag & Dhawan opening together....just imagine !

  • POSTED BY SamRoy on | October 12, 2013, 19:27 GMT

    Akash since you want to focus on his technique let me tell you a bit about his footwork against the moving ball. It is non-existent! Thats why he has struggled against swinging ball, seaming ball as well as really top-quality spin (except the couple of times he got on top of Murali). He is the first Indian batsman who is more comfortable to play the sweep rather than dancing down the track and playing it mid-off or mid-on. Also weakness outside off and weakness against well thought of surprise quick bouncer (Some bowlers overdo the bouncer, I am not talking about them).

  • POSTED BY android_user on | October 12, 2013, 18:27 GMT

    While Akash chose to focus on technique, what really stood out was the strength of character, the determination and an almost eerie calmness. I don't know where the zen like demeanour came from. A new Yuvi perhaps!! Yet to be proven on seaming wickets though.

  • POSTED BY BRUTALANALYST on | October 12, 2013, 17:44 GMT

    1 T20 isn't enough to call comeback especially when Australai didn't even have 1 strike bowler in either Mitchell Johnson Tait or any other pace bowlers and the few bowler/all-rounders that were playing didn't even test him once with a short ball. Saying that it was a magnificent innings of destruction but lets see if he can do it in the ODi'S before we get to carried away Aakash.

  • POSTED BY AvidCricFan on | October 12, 2013, 17:43 GMT

    May be his bout with cancer is a turning point in his life. He seems to be back with more commitment and vigor than earlier. His fitness now is a proof of it. Now he comes across as rejuvenated cricketer.

  • POSTED BY on | October 12, 2013, 17:21 GMT

    sing is always king...he is a somple and humnle match winner always, unlike dhoni always want to take the run rate very high and win some lose some , want to saw off too much. even other day he face same amount of bowls as singh and he score only run a ball....4 overs need 48 he still getting singles....if sing got out dhoni could win with the last ball or lose in last ball, he did that last time with newzeland....i even thought dhoni don't want to win this and singh don't want to be hero....

  • POSTED BY Dreamz_Unlimited on | October 12, 2013, 15:40 GMT

    I think Yuvi is the reason behind India's win in recent 20-20 & ODI world cup.. Truly a great fighter... Total Respect.. Yuvi u rocks.....

  • POSTED BY on | October 12, 2013, 14:58 GMT

    In limited overs , Yuvraj Singh was always a match winner and will hopefully continue to be so till the WC 2015. Nobody can forget his contributions to our ODI wc winning campaign. If only he could have taken it to the longer format, another name would have been added to the list of Sachin, Dravid, Saurav, VVS and Sehwag.

  • POSTED BY android_user on | October 12, 2013, 13:29 GMT

    I respect yuvi for his fighting spirit and talent. He is always a very good one day player. But including him in the world cup team based on one performance and that to on Indian pitch is not right( my opinion). He never proved his mettle in tests and so instead of trying him selectors can try likes of Rahane or even younger players like juneja

  • POSTED BY CricketChat on | October 12, 2013, 13:13 GMT

    Nearing 32, Yuvraj will always be 2-3 failures away from dropped, with so many youngsters pushing for places these days. That his fielding standard has dropped quite a bit will not help him either. He will always be in contention for shorter formats, but tests I am not sure any more.

  • POSTED BY on | October 12, 2013, 11:49 GMT

    One must not read much into an attack against a depleted and inexperienced bowling combination in a flat track. Not only for winning the 2014 world cup but also to be in No. 1 position, our selection committee should not be retrograde falling back on old players who are sitting on their past laurels. Technically sound batsmen and team men like Dinesh Kartik and Rahane and also the other young players should be brought back into India eleven to make it an winning team.

  • POSTED BY on | October 12, 2013, 11:43 GMT

    Aakash your comments are always insightful. All of us are delighted with Yuvraj's return as he is A REAL MATCH WINNER. Dhoni, Yuvraj, Dhawan, and Kohli - 4 Match winners + support of Rohit, Raina, & Jadeja. India cannot be defeated. Cheers!

  • POSTED BY BHARATLIFE on | October 12, 2013, 11:19 GMT

    I agree that Yuvi , is good at comebacks, but everyone has a got he is not very far off, just like Sehwag, the way he uses his wrist to flick fast man so non nonchalantly, or the way he takes the medium pacers to the cleaner, he is just one of the best. In any case, now in after the World Cup, everyone can now declare that he is a "Full Ticket" all rounder, so there is no surprise. It is nice to see him back , but was he really gone ??? Forget about England @home all our boys struggled, and Yuvi never really got his feet wet in Test cricket, so he has not done much wrong.

  • POSTED BY ManojBrock on | October 12, 2013, 10:56 GMT

    Its awesome... Whenever the question has been raised...he replies them with Man of the Match(MoM) performances everytime..check the stats..He is amazing..What a talent...He is a great player unlike dhoni,raina or kohli possess..

  • POSTED BY android_user on | October 12, 2013, 10:15 GMT

    Nice article as always. and regarding the test spot being up for grab, i would like to see opportunity given to ahishek nayar or manpreet juneja( both scoring well in domestic matches as well as A games), nayar seam bowling will be a plus in SA conditions.

  • POSTED BY on | October 12, 2013, 10:12 GMT

    I thought this article was about Imran Farhat...

  • POSTED BY zidi.raajput on | October 12, 2013, 9:47 GMT

    Whats about the Shahid Afirdi . He has great record of come backs .

  • POSTED BY mmmuthukumar on | October 12, 2013, 8:47 GMT

    Hope to see a youngster to make a Test debut in SA like AMRE and SEHWAG, at No: 5 or 6. Who will make it. Samson or Aparajith. Rahane or who else?

  • POSTED BY rohit_pitre on | October 12, 2013, 8:31 GMT

    Yuvraj Singh is has to be one of the best match winners in ODIs and T20s. He has been the star performer in 2007 and 2011 world cup wins for India. I will surely rate him right up with there with the greats of Indian ODI cricket. But as far as tests is concerned I don't see him making his way back in the Indian test team as of now. Let him play Limited overs cricket and he will surely become a legend by the time he retires may be 6-7 years down the line.

  • POSTED BY CherryWood_Champion on | October 12, 2013, 8:25 GMT

    @priyatham ... in that duleep trophy final the person who caught MSDhoni after a well made 60 in the 2`nd innings was ... guess who Yuvi :)

  • POSTED BY vatsap on | October 12, 2013, 8:19 GMT

    Keep him for ODI's, keep him for T20s but let him stay away from tests. Too many young Indian careers have been left in the limbo giving Yuvraj umpteen chances. And what is all this about dedications for every single knock after every single come back.

  • POSTED BY on | October 12, 2013, 7:47 GMT

    agree that the sample was only 35 balls in rajkot but this happens with yuvi. when he is in gud nick, he has a very decent run of good scores. track him from the start of this season, against west indiies A sides and the challenger series. i am pretty confident that he will do well in this entire aussie series. when he is in a slump, he dishes out a string of single digit scores. but for now, fans can sit back and enjoy his performances in this aussie series.

  • POSTED BY priyatham on | October 12, 2013, 6:54 GMT

    Nice article! Explains how Yuvi generates power via his high backlift. I checked out the scorecard referred to by Akash in the article here - the Duleep trophy final in 2004. Was very surprised to see who the East Zone opening batsman was - a certain MS Dhoni!!

  • POSTED BY on | October 12, 2013, 6:45 GMT

    My hero is back. Keep it up Yuvi

  • POSTED BY veerang on | October 12, 2013, 6:42 GMT

    an experts article by akash.describes yuvi perfectly.

  • POSTED BY yoogi on | October 12, 2013, 6:30 GMT

    For someone who was a world cup man of the series, the man made who fulfilled the world cup dreams of billion people, he could have been carried on with the team especially given that all-round talent. But the drop spurred him on to improve himself a lot better. Hopefully he will find a place in the test team too.

  • POSTED BY on | October 12, 2013, 6:24 GMT

    Too early to say anything, Rajkot is a batting paradise!

  • POSTED BY ProdigyA on | October 12, 2013, 4:11 GMT

    I think a great movie can be made of Yuvi's life.

  • No featured comments at the moment.

  • POSTED BY ProdigyA on | October 12, 2013, 4:11 GMT

    I think a great movie can be made of Yuvi's life.

  • POSTED BY on | October 12, 2013, 6:24 GMT

    Too early to say anything, Rajkot is a batting paradise!

  • POSTED BY yoogi on | October 12, 2013, 6:30 GMT

    For someone who was a world cup man of the series, the man made who fulfilled the world cup dreams of billion people, he could have been carried on with the team especially given that all-round talent. But the drop spurred him on to improve himself a lot better. Hopefully he will find a place in the test team too.

  • POSTED BY veerang on | October 12, 2013, 6:42 GMT

    an experts article by akash.describes yuvi perfectly.

  • POSTED BY on | October 12, 2013, 6:45 GMT

    My hero is back. Keep it up Yuvi

  • POSTED BY priyatham on | October 12, 2013, 6:54 GMT

    Nice article! Explains how Yuvi generates power via his high backlift. I checked out the scorecard referred to by Akash in the article here - the Duleep trophy final in 2004. Was very surprised to see who the East Zone opening batsman was - a certain MS Dhoni!!

  • POSTED BY on | October 12, 2013, 7:47 GMT

    agree that the sample was only 35 balls in rajkot but this happens with yuvi. when he is in gud nick, he has a very decent run of good scores. track him from the start of this season, against west indiies A sides and the challenger series. i am pretty confident that he will do well in this entire aussie series. when he is in a slump, he dishes out a string of single digit scores. but for now, fans can sit back and enjoy his performances in this aussie series.

  • POSTED BY vatsap on | October 12, 2013, 8:19 GMT

    Keep him for ODI's, keep him for T20s but let him stay away from tests. Too many young Indian careers have been left in the limbo giving Yuvraj umpteen chances. And what is all this about dedications for every single knock after every single come back.

  • POSTED BY CherryWood_Champion on | October 12, 2013, 8:25 GMT

    @priyatham ... in that duleep trophy final the person who caught MSDhoni after a well made 60 in the 2`nd innings was ... guess who Yuvi :)

  • POSTED BY rohit_pitre on | October 12, 2013, 8:31 GMT

    Yuvraj Singh is has to be one of the best match winners in ODIs and T20s. He has been the star performer in 2007 and 2011 world cup wins for India. I will surely rate him right up with there with the greats of Indian ODI cricket. But as far as tests is concerned I don't see him making his way back in the Indian test team as of now. Let him play Limited overs cricket and he will surely become a legend by the time he retires may be 6-7 years down the line.