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Yuvraj Singh back in Indian colours: Southpaw’s last stand or swansong?

The Financial Express logo The Financial Express 10-01-2017
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293 ODIs, 8329 runs, with an average of 36 and a strike rate of 87.24 with 51 fifties and 13 centuries; Yuvraj Singh’s records speak more than the man himself. Yuvraj, recently married, finds himself in the scheme of things once again as he has been picked for the T20 and ODI series against the touring Australian team. The legendary southpaw’s selection has been based on his performance in the domestic circuit in India. In the 5 matches, Yuvi has played this season, the stylish left-hander had managed to score a massive 672 runs with two 100s and two 50s with an average of 84 and a highest score of 260. At 35 years of age, Yuvraj’s hunger to play for India is what seems to have impressed the chairman of selectors MSK Prasad. Speaking to reporters, Prasad praised Yuvraj’s domestic performance and complemented him on his incredible scoring.

It has to be noted, though, that Yuvraj last played a One Dayer in Indian colours way back in 2013, while his last T20 was against Srilanka in the 2012 World Cup. Yuvraj’s inclusion in the team is expected to give the Indian middle order the much-needed solidarity. Now that M S Dhoni has resigned from the post of captain, it is wise to guess that the wicket-keeper batsman would go back to batting up the order like he has quite vocally expressed his desire to. This exposes the middle order, especially with inexperience in the lower middle order and the lack of a proper finisher in the team. Yuvraj, if in form, can fill up the void and become a stabilising agent in the lineup. And with his impeccable ability and penchant for hitting sixes, India might just be looking at the perfect batsman at number 5.

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It is, however, to be remembered that Yuvraj’s form since the 2011 World Cup victory has been at best patchy and following his brave struggle win over cancer, the southpaw has regularly struggled with fitness. In the last T20 Yuvraj had played in the 2012 World Cup, the southpaw struggled for 21 balls to score 11 runs in the slog overs, sucking the momentum out of the Indian innings. This had come just a few days after he had announced himself back to form with 77 of 35 balls against Australia.

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And this precisely has been the story of Yuvraj Singh’s entire international career. A naturally talented batsman, oozing with class, Yuvraj Singh made lazy look cool before Rohit Sharma. When in form, in the middle of an innings, Yuvraj’s batting would resemble a Led Zepplin song. His hands would move like a fish in water, his drives would be effortless, his flicks would carry the power of celestial beings. On a bad day, he would look like a badly wounded soldier, looking for a swan song; but unable to find it. This shows in his average of 36 in ODIs and 33 in tests. For a player so gifted, Yuvraj has been an underachiever.

But if we have known anything about Yuvraj Singh in the last 2 decades, it’s that the man is a fighter. When the 18-year-old Yuvraj Singh lighted up the quarterfinal against Australia of the Champions Trophy, scoring 84, helping India progress to the semifinal. Australia’s then captain Steve Waugh said after the match: “As a striker of the ball he played an excellent innings. He kept the composure of the side going and he saw them basically through to the end so it was a match-winning innings.” He fought to score that that fluent 69 against England at Lord’s in the famous Natwest final of 2002. He scored a 78-ball-138 aginst England in 2008 at Rajkot with a back spasm, following up with another in the next match. When riled by Andrew Flintoff in 2007 T20 World Cup, he made England pay with 6 6s in an over. Yuvraj Singh quite literally won India the World Cup 2011 with 362 runs at an average of 113.66 with 1 century and 4 half centuries. Add to that 15 wickets in the tournament and we have the Player of the World Cup. This was at a time, the southpaw was coughing blood, suffering from Cancer.

Slideshow: Know your cricketer - Yuvraj Singh

Know your cricketer: Yuvraj Singh

Yuvraj’s selection in the Indian team might be a gamble at giving the old horse one final chance to race. This is also a safe bet considering the home conditions and a new middle order, which means, it cannot possibly come back and bite India in the back. However, irrespective of his performance in the tour, Yuvraj Singh still goes out as a legend who won India two World Cups.

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