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The Yuvraj conundrum

Yuvraj Singh is making his third comeback since recovering from cancer, but with the breakneck and pressure-filled T20 being the only format he has to make a case for a permanent place, he has looked woefully short of confidence

Abhishek Purohit in Mirpur

March 25, 2014

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Yuvraj Singh checks his helmet during a training session, Dhaka, March 20, 2014
Yuvraj Singh's search for form in every department of the game continues © AFP
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As Suresh Raina hit the winning run off Marlon Samuels, the Indian dug-out hugged and high-fived their successive win in the World T20.

There was celebratory joy, but there was also a hint of relief, for India had taken a simple chase to the final over. As MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli clasped hands, Yuvraj Singh walked out. He had just taken off his gear but still wore a part disenchanted, part blank look; his eyes distant, and in sharp contrast to the jubilation around him.

Yuvraj had walked in with 23 needed off 32, consumed 19 of those for his 10 runs and had fallen dabbing a turner straight to slip. One ball later Raina ended the match.

Against Pakistan, he missed a full delivery and was bowled second ball. In both matches, he put down what could have been costly misses - Chris Gayle and Mohammad Hafeez - but India created and converted more chances soon after. His solitary over in the tournament so far went for 13.

Cricket is a game that lends itself easily to analysis, and unfortunately, to over-analysis as well. India are only two games into their campaign in a format where often, any analysis can be over-analysis. It is readily possible to argue in Yuvraj's favour: Anyone can miss a full and straight one early in his innings, especially in the T20 format which requires heavy hitting.

Yuvraj might only have wanted some time in the middle, knowing that India had plenty of deliveries left to put West Indies away, and aware that such an opportunity rarely comes in T20s. Already, many other players have spilled high catches in Mirpur, and there could be a larger reason for it. The height and positioning of the floodlights is being talked about as a possible factor. And for all his deeds with the ball in the past, Yuvraj is and has always been a part-time bowler, and it was only one over anyway.

It is the sum of all these instances, though, that invites concern. This is already Yuvraj's third comeback (of sorts) since recovering from cancer. The first time he was rushed into the 2012 World T20 having played very little competitive cricket and seemed lacking in match fitness. The second comeback also started in the shortest format, with a much leaner Yuvraj carving a match-winning, unbeaten 77 off 35 against Australia in Rajkot in October last year, before struggling in the one-dayers. The third comeback is not strict in definition, for India didn't played any T20s between the Rajkot one and the World T20.

In both the previous phases, Yuvraj has lost his place in one format each. He hasn't played a Test since December 2012, and an ODI since December 2013, missing the tour of New Zealand and the Asia Cup.

 
 
The confidence does not seem to be there. It shows in the way he has looked forlorn on the boundary after those drops instead of showing some anger or disappointment.
 

At the moment, T20 is the only format he has to make his case and it can be misleading for watchers to take cues from. It can also be ruthless on the player, with everything happening so fast, leaving little time to gather your thoughts. Even more so, considering it is a world event.

With bat, ball, on the field, even in the nets, Yuvraj has just not looked comfortable. The confidence does not seem to be there. It shows in the way he has looked forlorn on the boundary after those drops instead of showing some anger or disappointment. He knows, and the world knows, there is so much riding for him on this World T20. Maybe it is the pressure of that knowledge, that this is all he has left for now, at the international stage at least, that is shackling him down.

As any captain would, MS Dhoni backed his senior player after the West Indies match. "Yuvraj is the best player in T20s. Right now he is not in that good a rhythm you can say. It is a bit tough, he has been dropped from ODIs and is coming back in T20s, there is a bit of pressure on the individual. You can say it is a short format and you can go in and express yourself, but when an individual comes into the team, there is some pressure on him.

"It takes one-two matches but we are only hoping if he gets a good flow, a good game, we all know the kind of match-winner he is and he can really turn the game around on his own," Dhoni said. "I am glad he got a bit of time because it will only settle his nerves. We all know how dangerous he can be once he gets going, he will give many more victories. If Yuvi comes back, if he bats really well, he is a good asset to have a No 4."

India can arguably afford to give Yuvraj one more match in the tournament. It should ideally help that their next one is against Bangladesh and not Australia. They will be relieved if Yuvraj comes good in that. If not, they will be in a quandary against Australia. They look good to make the semi-final, and would not want to go in with a short-on-confidence Yuvraj or a short-on-match-practice Ajinkya Rahane.

Abhishek Purohit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Posted by   on (March 30, 2014, 20:50 GMT)

I am so glad that King Yuvi got his form back. All Yuvi critics are biting the dust now. I wish he had some bowling too when Aussies were struggling. Anyway Yuvi got his form back before Semi Final and it is really awesome news now. THIS is THE WAY TO GO YUVI. Form is temporary, Yuvraj is permanent.

Posted by   on (March 28, 2014, 21:21 GMT)

come on yuvi...we want to c u...u r a tiger.i think v all shd back yuvi to get n form...once he is in form..we will hv ths world cup in india.

Posted by   on (March 27, 2014, 9:27 GMT)

I think he played well against Sri Lanka in the warm up game. This is his third comeback. If he is not fit he should not be given any chances but if he is fit he should be given some time to get into his mode. Once he gets the confidence other teams would lose confidence irrespective of which bowler is bowling. Would he be able to repeat a stuart broad in this T20 world cup ? This is too much of asking but he is that kind of a player once he gets his confidence. Stick with him throughout the tournament as he may win matches from any critical situation. Hope it happens during a critical stage of this tournament.

Posted by   on (March 27, 2014, 6:47 GMT)

Fire him!!!! He has got fair number of chances and has not performed.

Posted by Amit_M30 on (March 27, 2014, 3:46 GMT)

I know Yuvraj is not doing well and probably Rahane should be given a shot. And I know that I would be emotional and biased to still favour him, but give it to my era of cricketers an that he is probably the last of them (ganguly discoveries). I would love to see him get back to being himself. Because I know that when that happens, it will be sweeter than anything else in recent history of Indian cricket. When Yuvi is in full flow, it's the best view on cricket field, specially his mid-wicket sixes. I know I will be in tears, nostalgic with memories of the last decade. This time for Yuvi!

Posted by   on (March 27, 2014, 2:41 GMT)

I don't even feel like watching highlights when yuvi does not perform...come on yuvi...please play your natural game...because if you don't perform they'll kick you out anyways :(

GO YUVI! GOOD LUCK WE ARE WITH YOU!

Posted by android_user on (March 27, 2014, 0:59 GMT)

I believe yuvi is still one of the best match winner in the world. .

Posted by android_user on (March 26, 2014, 21:46 GMT)

Lots of Yuvi fans have written about Yuvi's exploits at the World Cups. So does that mean we the Team has to carry him while he is in probably the worst form of his life in an important Tournament. Its not Yuvraj we know but just a shell of the man we know. Its foolish to write him off or end his career but he has to rested based on his current form. There is zero footwork zero confidence zero indication of any turnaround. Nobody is bigger than the Team.

Posted by   on (March 26, 2014, 21:20 GMT)

We all could see Yuvraj is somehow disoriented when he dropped the catch against Pakistan. The drop never worried us 'cause it happens always. But what worried us was Yuvi's reaction. It was like an outsider trying to be fit in the family and making a terrible mistake. But when he'll start to believe himself again , thinking himself as an inseparable part of the team, there will be no stopping him. Of course the team, team management have to give him the confidence, but probably all Indian cricket fans also owe him that, to back him when he is not on his best of the mind set.

Posted by   on (March 26, 2014, 21:06 GMT)

"Yuvraj has just not looked comfortable. The confidence does not seem to be there" ..for me that sums up the whole article and the and gives the answer to the question 'whether or not keep Yuvi in the team'. And my answer is YES...If a Yuvraj Singh scores consecutive 20 ducks, he'll still be on my 50/20 overs team.Anywhere against any opponent. It's the team and team management's duty (and I think he has earned that) to give him the confidence. Because we all know, once he has that in him, he can win a whole tournament by himself for the team.

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Tournament Results
India v Sri Lanka at Dhaka - Apr 6, 2014
Sri Lanka won by 6 wickets (with 13 balls remaining)
India v South Africa at Dhaka - Apr 4, 2014
India won by 6 wickets (with 5 balls remaining)
Sri Lanka v West Indies at Dhaka - Apr 3, 2014
Sri Lanka won by 27 runs (D/L method)
Pakistan v West Indies at Dhaka - Apr 1, 2014
West Indies won by 84 runs
Bangladesh v Australia at Dhaka - Apr 1, 2014
Australia won by 7 wickets (with 15 balls remaining)
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