India v New Zealand, 1st ODI, Dambulla August 9, 2010

Time for Yuvraj to turn the clock back

The tri-series is Yuvraj Singh's first chance to steer the focus back to his cricket, away from the fitness issues, away from Page 3

At his best in limited-overs matches, Yuvraj Singh gives Indian fans and the dressing room a feeling of assurance few others can, and that is the reason he is integral to the country's dreams of a World Cup victory at home.

A case in point is India's ill-fated campaign to defend their World Twenty20 crown in 2009. Having entered the tournament as one of the hot favourites, with the country's love affair with the newest format burgeoning, India were staring at a humiliating early elimination during the second Super Eights game against England at Lord's. The top-order was floundering to a bouncer barrage and after the youngsters, Suresh Raina and Rohit Sharma, fell cheaply, Gautam Gambhir and Ravindra Jadeja poked and plodded at one-day pace. With the asking rate touching double-digits and the title defence in tatters, Yuvraj walked out in the 11th over and gloriously lofted his first ball for a huge six, the first of the innings. There was another nonchalant hit for six more before a brilliant, quicksilver stumping from James Foster ended his 14-minute stay. India went on to lose but for those 14 minutes, irrespective of the odds, fans believed victory was possible.

That is where Yuvraj towers over the gaggle of youngsters with whom he is now jostling for a middle-order berth. He has always been a man for the big occasion, whether it was the dazzling 84 in his first one-day innings after a top-order collapse against Steve Waugh's Australians, the star-making turn in the NatWest series final in 2002 or the jaw-dropping 70 off 30 balls in a take-no-prisoners semi-final against Australia in the inaugural World Twenty20.

There hasn't been any addition to that highlights reel in 2010. A spate of injuries, a ballooning waistline, indifferent form and those never-too-far-away questions about his attitude culminated in his axing from the one-day side for the Asia Cup. That was meant to chasten a man who had perhaps taken for granted a spot in the ODI middle order after eight years of being a guaranteed starter. And it left Yuvraj in the peculiar situation of being in the Test side and out of the one-day team.

Ahead of the Test series against Sri Lanka, he spoke of the tough training his father put him through as part of a bid to regain full fitness. It seemed to have paid off as Yuvraj, more streamlined than the butt-of-all-jokes who turned up in the IPL, started with a flawless century in the tour game against Sri Lanka Board President's XI and followed it up with a brisk 52 under pressure in the first Test.

It started to unravel again when flu forced him to miss the second Test. Raina grabbed his chance to make a debut hundred that ensured the match was a draw and elbow out Yuvraj, bringing an end to his first extended run as a Test starter in a decade of trying. And, to make things worse, he responded to taunts from visibly drunk fans provoking a flurry of unflattering headlines which reinforced the impression of Yuvraj the brat.

The tri-series is his first chance to steer the focus back to his cricket, away from the fitness issues, away from Page 3. It is his first chance to remind us of the man whom MS Dhoni calls "the main strength of our middle order". It is his first chance to add to that highlight reel.

As the most experienced player in the line-up, Yuvraj remains the proven performer India need in a middle order in which several players still have the learner's wheels. It's a middle order that looks particularly shaky if there is an injury to Dhoni, who has managed to so far steer clear of fitness troubles despite playing the triple role of wicketkeeper, key batsman and captain. It's a trick Yuvraj will love to learn after an injury-filled year.

Siddarth Ravindran is a sub-editor at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on August 12, 2010, 12:32 GMT

    the oly way for india is to bring RD bak...... Dhoni suks.....

  • varun on August 10, 2010, 15:55 GMT

    I have just watched the match, the opener also said to be the most important match of the tri - series, I think Yuvraj, Dhoni, Sharma and Karthik should al be sacked from the team, Dhoni does not know how to captain anymore and all the other player including our captain care about only the $$$$ and the fame, they should take lessons from players like Tendu and Sehwag who get fame but also play the game. Ofcorse somtimes the have a bad match but see how Sehwag will come back. I am not big fans of any other player apart from Tendu. I used to be a huge fan of Dhoni and Yuvraj. No point in continuing to be fans of them. I am not insulting them I am simply saying that they should stop playing and stop ruining their reputation, and realise by doing this they are ruining India's cricketing name. We need better captaing like Sehwag or even Raina it does not matter if he is inexperienced i am sure he will captain better than the likes of Dhoni and atleast he knows how to play. Concluding He

  • arvin on August 10, 2010, 14:17 GMT

    yuvraj time is over... he is more of a burden on the team now... wonder how long selector and dhoni will be able to keep him in the team... now a days most indians worry when yuvraj comes to play that if he scores anything above 30-4- odd runs then he will play another year scoring those 10-15 runs every time...

  • Dummy4 on August 10, 2010, 14:13 GMT

    - All the best to Yuvraj ... and I feel that they should bring back Rahul Dravid .. despite whatever one says ... need some solidness ... and need to respect the legend.

  • Prashant on August 10, 2010, 13:53 GMT

    Waterboy!! oops sorry!! What-a-boy!

  • Ballistic on August 10, 2010, 13:34 GMT

    "Time for Yuvraj to click" Can someone please try to say if India's wonder boy All Rounder R.Jadeja needs to click or not?

  • Dummy4 on August 10, 2010, 13:13 GMT

    Yuvraj has been recalled!One wonders whether the message has been conveyed to Yuvraj.Was a month enough for Yuvraj to work on his fitness and fielding?Was it enough for him to get his problematic knee treated?Wasn't there always a feeling that Yuvraj's return was a certainty?Perhaps giving him a long break would have conveyed the message better and a fitter, eager Yuvraj might have returned for the Australia series in November.He might still easily perform with his bat covering the other issues with a couple of match winning knocks in this series, but these shall be the knocks played to prove a point and not played by an improved player.

  • shafudeen on August 10, 2010, 13:09 GMT

    Yuvraj has the potential to destroy the opponent bowlers better than other Indian batsmans. the problem is some times yuvi not taking the game as serious .he should stop other entertainments and give attention to game onlyl. then no one can fill his place.

  • kapilesh on August 10, 2010, 13:05 GMT

    i always thought yuv was a great limited over batsman .but his recent antiques ,plus injuries without even playing the match ,inconsistancy and low confidance has amazed me .suddenly from a fan of yuv i've become a critic of him .hope he regain his confidance and perform on par with his talent and shut the mouths of critics like me.

  • Nataraaj on August 10, 2010, 12:58 GMT

    Indians should have restricted NZ for about 250. spinners gave too many runs...Batting 2nd at Dambula is not easy. Batsman has to stay & play sensibly. I think Raina,Dhoni has to paly long innings till end and 50+ scrore from Sehwag & Yuvaraj will take india home... let's see how india play

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