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Singh hits a low note

As far as falls from grace go, Yuvraj Singh's has been steep enough to warrant a parachute. After a magnificent century at Lahore, albeit in a losing cause, the Indian team management were impressed enough to consider him indispensable. When Sourav Ganguly returned for the Rawalpindi Test a week later, Aakash Chopra made way, despite having been part of four hundred-run partnerships with Virender Sehwag in the eight Tests where they opened together.

At the time, Yuvraj was supposed to slot in as an opening batsman, but after India knocked Pakistan over after tea on the opening day, it was Parthiv Patel who strode out to face the wrath of Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Sami. The logic then was that the in-form Yuvraj was too precious to be sacrificed at the top, and Ganguly even went so far as to say that he deserved to play in his natural habitat: the middle order.

Six months on, Yuvraj did poorly in the opening Test against Australia at Bangalore, but he was hardly alone in that regard. And after a solitary failure as opener in Chennai, he finds himself surplus to requirements, with Chopra, who was axed for Chennai, curiously back in the fold. If Yuvraj is confused, you could scarcely blame him. Considered a better bet at the top of the order than Chopra just ten days ago, he's now not good enough for a middle-order slot, even with Ganguly missing.

Mohammad Kaif's gritty 64 in Chennai won him the vote, which doesn't say much about the team's philosophy of keeping faith in its players. After all, if Patel - whose keeping continues to be wretched - can be persisted with, then why not Yuvraj, who has hardly had enough opportunities to be labelled a failure?

The only plausible reason for his dramatic demotion lies off the field. If Yuvraj is indeed guilty of being seduced by the trappings of fame, the fault lies partly with the management. Sporting greatness is only possible within the framework of a benevolent dictatorship, as Douglas Jardine and Sir Alex Ferguson could tell you.

If, and there is no concrete proof for this, Yuvraj is indeed a big-time Charlie - as Ferguson famously referred to one of his axed stars - he should have been made to walk the straight and narrow months ago. Indian cricket can't afford a profligate approach to young talent, what with Test-class performers so thin on the ground.

Dileep Premachandran is assistant editor of Wisden Cricinfo