Yuvraj Singh: Still a point to prove
After getting a call from Indian selectors for the home series against Australia, Yuvraj Singh must be a happy man. He is the first discarded senior player – among Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Harbhajan Singh and Zaheer Khan -- who has won the confidence of national selectors to earn his place back in Team India.
Many arm-chair critics were of the view that after winning the battle against cancer, Yuvraj Singh’s selection in the team was more of an emotional decision by the selectors, as he lacked match fitness. But this time around, the southpaw from Punjab has certainly earned his place in the side by showing consistency while playing for India A and India Blue.
Even after having a reputation of being a match-winner, Yuvraj Singh last played his international series against England in 2012-13 after which he was dropped on the grounds of poor form and fitness. In his last ten ODI innings, Yuvraj only managed to score just one half-century. A poor Indian Premier League (IPL), while playing for Pune Franchise, further put up a big question mark on his form and fitness.
After being shown the doors by selectors 10 months back, the come-back king first worked on his fitness even before playing any competitive cricket. He went to France to attend a gruelling fitness camp under a world-renowned fitness trainer Tim Exeter along with another out of favour player Zaheer Khan. After attending a six-week camp, where they virtually lived like a Shaolin monk in centre France, when Yuvraj Singh came back, most of his fellow cricketers felt that he had actually lost a few kilos and was once again back to the peak of his fitness.
After getting back into the shape, Yuvraj luckily got a golden chance to represent India A against West Indies A in an unofficial match and then in the Challengers Trophy. And this time he let his bat do the talking. In his last six innings, Yuvi left no stone unturned and scored 389 runs and proved that there is still a lot of cricket left in him.
The 32-year-old once again showed his never-say-die attitude and sealed the lips of his critics, by making yet another slot in the Indian team. Even after having a packed batting order, especially the middle order, with has players like Suresh Raina, MS Dhoni, Ravindra Jadeja, he forced the selectors to consider him and it speak volumes about this gifted stroke-maker.
Though he cracked the code once again to get into the main fold, this time it would be a hard nut to crack for the Man of the Series of 2011 ICC World Cup, to sustain his position in the team as he has replaced a much improved and talented cricketer - Dinesh Karthik.
Indian team has been selected for the first three ODIs against Australia, and Yuvraj will certainly be the cynosure of all eyes. But he has to perform at any cost, as a failure at this stage would see his ouster from the team.
But it is also this knack of performing at bigger stages that differentiates him from many. Apart from being an exceptional hitter of the cricket ball, he is also a more than handy bowler. His slow left-arm spin can be effective on Indian wickets. His all-round skill on the field makes him a dangerous customer.
However, I think, this time around fearless Yuvraj would be under immense pressure as he has to prove a point. Expectations would be all time high, from one of the most gifted players in contemporary cricket. A high profile series and competition within the team is higher than ever.
In fact on the eve of the one-off T20 against Australia, Indian skipper MS Dhoni himself talked about pressure Yuvraj might feel, as the former stated: "...If it becomes like a comeback scenario, I think there is a kind of pressure on the player. We are trying to keep it as normal as possible. It doesn`t matter if you are one of the biggest match-winners. It is very important to take that feeling away from the individual that he is making his comeback." Dhoni further added: “Because what`s important is for the individual to be expressive on field, back himself, have belief in his talent, the kind of talent that he has got. Ultimately that will show on the field. We will try to keep it as normal as possible and try to take the undue pressure off him and hopefully that will work.”
It would be interesting to see whether Yuvraj will cope with the pressure and cement his place via this series against the inexperienced Australian team, or he has to wait for some more time to get back into his real self (a destructor), as far as his place in Team India is concerned.