Australia v India, World T20, Group 2, Mirpur March 30, 2014

Yuvraj fulfils weight of expectations

Probably as much as Yuvraj wanted to succeed, India also dearly wanted him to. His captain's faith in him was vindicated against Australia after a string of failures

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India tick all boxes ahead of semi-finals

'Matter of one innings'. 'Matter of one innings'. They kept saying it, and we kept hearing it. Didn't come against Pakistan. Didn't come against West Indies. Didn't get a chance to come against Bangladesh.

Australia was the last chance. This had to be that one innings. And Yuvraj Singh made it count. Their senior batsman finding some form has to be the biggest takeaway for the Indians from this game, although they would have also been delighted with how their spinners confounded a batting line-up for the fourth successive time in the tournament.

Probably as much as Yuvraj wanted to succeed, India also dearly wanted him to. They did what they could in training, giving him several short, sharp stints of batting practice one day, a solo, longer one the other. During their training session before the Australia match, Yuvraj had an extended batting workout, fielding coach Trevor Penny's sidearm device giving him plenty of throwdowns. MS Dhoni usually watches his players practise from a distance, and does not get too involved, but this time, he stood right behind the single stump at the bowlers' end, watching Yuvraj closely.

Australia was to be the final opportunity before the knockouts, and Dhoni wanted to make sure his premier player was getting the most attention. After seeing him time a few drives and defend solidly, Dhoni even bowled a few offbreaks to Yuvraj.

India had also thrown their weight behind Yuvraj publicly. 'We all know what he can do once he gets going,' was the refrain. But even the best batsmen can stutter and stumble when they are out of touch, and when they are under pressure. That Yuvraj was feeling the pressure was evident. You did not need to see the way he had batted, particularly against West Indies, to realise that. It came across even in the way he was carrying himself on the field - brooding and seemingly occupied with himself. It came across when he reflected in disappointment at his struggle against West Indies even as his team-mates nearby celebrated India's second win of the tournament.

Till the time he whipped Brad Hodge to the deep midwicket boundary, Yuvraj was quite nervy. There were two close run-out calls where he slipped on the pitch, there were plays-and-misses against both spin and pace. Yuvraj was on 13 off 21 when he came down the track to Hodge. He then realised he was nowhere near the pitch. He stopped, adjusted his bat-swing and whipped it, against the turn. There was a fielder at long-on, but it was timed too well and had too much power - the combination that is the hallmark of Yuvraj when he is in flow.

Now he needed some fortune. James Muirhead provided him successive short balls that sat up and were smacked for sixes over deep midwicket. Early in his innings, Yuvraj had tried to do hit a Glenn Maxwell short ball but had missed it completely. That phase was over now, the nerves had been put away, and the confidence had been restored considerably.

Dhoni said with a smile that it was one question less that he would have to answer in press conferences now that Yuvraj had rediscovered his touch. "Yuvi's innings was brilliant," Dhoni said. "The way he paced his innings, and the best part was that an innings like this was needed for him, where he can be expressive and just be himself. It was an ideal opportunity today. He went and played a few deliveries and then he expressed himself. We all know the kind of batsman he is. He can clear any ground in the world and it does not matter whether it is a fast bowler or a spinner bowling. Initially he may struggle for the first five or seven deliveries. It is your good luck if you get him out, if not, he will take you out of the game."

It was also India's good luck that Yuvraj came good just in time for the semi-finals. Dhoni probably might not be bowling offbreaks to him in the nets again anytime soon.

Abhishek Purohit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on April 1, 2014, 8:24 GMT

    Happy to See Yuvi fought back again well . All the Best Yuvi

  • Rajarathinam on April 1, 2014, 5:29 GMT

    yuvi is back with a bang. Those who had been mentioning that Yuvi should said adieu to cricket ,please revisit on those as the "Punjab ka puttar" is going to stay long in the cricketing field and has got more and more records to break. The Guy is a Power House and No one can replace him at present.

    Yuvi... u are a true spirited hero..

    From a Die hard Yuvi Fan...

  • Manoj on April 1, 2014, 3:40 GMT

    Hey @charlie tea,watch out previous yuvraj's performances,and it proves you are wrong.The only guy to get more MoM awards in T20 for India,to hit most no of sixes,and hit many 50's.You can't say anything from one single performance.Hate you critics.He has faced everytime it before and made some strong replies in WC tournament.MsD is doing better.You are not a captain to adjudge to keep his performances.

  • raj on April 1, 2014, 2:28 GMT

    I always said that Yuvraj is only just coming into age where batsman peak - He has a few years of great cricket left in him. He is beginning to regain motivation (after the high of ODI WC win), form and confidence. Hopefully he continues gaining in the next (possibly two) matches in T20 WC. I do, however, believe that he is batting too high up the order - Yuvraj is not a man for stabilizing an innings - He is a basher/ finisher. Dhoni is trying hard to find the number 4 batsman as neither Yuvraj nor Raina is totally suitable for the role. Batting high up is confusing the mind of Yuvraj - He should be used the way Pak use Afridi. What an effort from Yuvraj to win the ODI WC for India and then fight back from his health issues. Best of luck to Yuvraj!!

  • Navneet on March 31, 2014, 21:04 GMT

    @India_boy... I am a great fan of Yuvi and loved his innings. But will not hear a word against Sachin. as you mentioned "after the 2003 WC, SRT did not serve a purpose" here is for your information.. Since Nov 2003 in 9-10 years, Sachin played 161 ODI matches, scored 15 centuries (4 of them were 150+ and a double) and 32 fifties (including 10 scores of 90+) total of 8000+ runs Compared with Yuvraj's 250+ matches, 13 centuries, 50 fifties and totoal of 8000 runs. Meaning the amount of runs, centuries, fifties Sachin scored in those 9-10 years of his so called OLD age is a total career summary for Yuvraj and many many other national and international greats. And this is just 40% of Sachin's career. People like you have really short term memory and live on what you see now. Have some respect for greats. I love it when Yuvraj plays but it cannot be compared with Sachin's batting. They both are different style players.

  • Dummy4 on March 31, 2014, 18:53 GMT

    Vijay Mallaya will be glad of this innings

  • shailesh on March 31, 2014, 18:43 GMT

    Yuvi is back after a long time....... :)

  • Vinod on March 31, 2014, 11:20 GMT

    hope he arrived finally! :-)

  • Satwant on March 31, 2014, 11:11 GMT

    he was always trying to be positive even though he was not connecting them, a missed sweep, under edged a pull. even in the past we know yuvi plays well when he starts aggressively and tries and get forward. i think sometimes he just puts too much pressure on himself during the start of the innings by trying to defend a few and then is gone within those few, defense surely not his thing and it backfires. i hope he always keeps that positive mindset at the start

  • Rahul on March 31, 2014, 10:27 GMT

    If somebody had asked me 2 weeks ago whether India could go all the way, my affirmative response would have been based more on sentiment than belief. The significant outage at that time was the form of Yuvraj Singh. If India were now to win he whole thing, I can guarantee that Yuvi will have a big part to play. He is the one batsmen opposition teams worry about. The fearless arrogance and swagger - backed of course, by performance- can only be an enormous boost to the belief in the Team. I can alread visualize the body language of the Team in the next game. Go Yuvi and Go Team India!