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Yuvraj Singh sparkles in Vijay Haraze, stays in fray for Australia tour

NDTV logo NDTV 19-12-2015

Yuvraj Singh is making all the right noises ahead of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) selection meeting to decide the squad for the Australia series beginning in January.

Exactly 24 hours before the Indian team selection for the Australian tour, India's 2011 World Cup hero sounded a timely reminder with a stunning match-winning performance for Punjab in the Vijay Hazare Trophy. Yuvraj slammed a 83-ball 98 against Services to steer Punjab to the quarterfinals.

Yuvraj's ability to chase big targets was again on show as Punjab chased a 300-plus score at Secunderabad. The left-handed batsman smashed eight fours and four sixes to gun down Services in a thrilling finish.

With a strike-rate of 98, the dashing Punjab left-hander is in good shape and the selectors could be tempted to include him in the squad for the series Down Under.

India will play five one-day internationals and three Twenty20 internationals on their tour to Australia. The team's limited overs record has not been great in 2015 and this upcoming series against the five-time world champions will not be easy.

Following their semi-final exit in the World Cup, India lost a bilateral ODI series to Bangladesh for the first time while they lost a limited overs bilateral series against South Africa at home for the first time.

Following the loss to South Africa, skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni rued the inexperience of the lower order and added that the inability to handle crunch situations was hurting India.

"Our lower order batting is slightly on the lighter side when we play against good fast bowlers. Actually, it puts a lot of pressure on the top six batsmen, if you lose one or two early wickets then you have only three or four batsmen to play with as you can't rely too much on your lower order."

Yuvraj The Finisher Par-Excellence

Dhoni's statement after the loss to South Africa was an indirect reference to Yuvraj's absence at number four or five. India were badly hampered by Suresh Raina's poor form in the series and Dhoni's lack of finishing prowess towards the end.

During Yuvraj's playing days, his utility at number four or five boosted India. At the number four position, he has scored 3057 runs at an average of 34.3 and a strike-rate of 88.58. At number five, he has scored 3026 runs at an average close to 40 and a strike-rate of 87.43.

Even lower down the order at number six, he has 1799 runs at an average of 36 and a strike-rate of 84.

With India having not won a single ODI series in 2015, Yuvraj's presence in the lower-middle order and his past contributions make him a valuable asset. His inclusion could ease the pressure on Dhoni and pave the way for India to finish the innings off in style.

Australia's Nemesis Since 2000

When one has to define Yuvraj as a cricketer, fans look back at his brilliance against Australia in the ICC Champions Trophy in Kenya in 2000. He has not looked back since then and he continues to be Australia's nemesis 15 years on.

In ODIs, he has scored 981 runs, with two centuries and four fifties at a strike-rate of 85 and an average close to 30. However, it is in the Twenty20 format where he has decimated the Aussies.

In six games, he has blasted 244 runs at a whopping average of 61.75 and a strike-rate of 170. He has hurt them where it has hurt most, which is the World Twenty20.

In 2007, during the semi-finals in Durban, Yuvraj's 30-ball 70 was the difference in India dumping out Australia from the tournament. In the 2014 World Twenty20, when he was in the midst of a lean patch, Yuvraj smashed 60 off 43 balls to help India knock Australia out in the first round.

One cannot ignore Yuvraj's current run of form in the Vijay Hazare. He continues to pile on runs and at 34 years of age, the chance to shine at the international stage is now or never. With three crucial months coming up, India need the experience of match-winners in crunch games. There is no one bigger than Yuvraj who fits this criteria.

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