Yuvraj Singh`s century highlights his immense run-hunger and much-improved fitness

A Yuvraj Singh in full flow is a joy to watch. The ball effortlessly flies around the park and the fielders are mere spectators watching him clobber the bowling. That his international career has been a stop-start affair in the last few years robbed India off a genuine match-winner. But, being the warrior he is, he fought back and proved his critics wrong. West Indies A bore the brunt of that very determination when he smashed 123 off only 89 balls at Bangalore. They went through the motions as Yuvraj befuddled them completely with his mesmerising act.

Last year, Yuvraj made a heartening comeback after a successful battle with cancer and looked in decent touch. Yet, his fitness was perhaps an issue later as he had a modest Indian Premier League (IPL) and did not make the cut for the ICC Champions Trophy 2013. Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s Young Turks lifted the competition and then impressed in successive assignments. On the sidelines, Yuvraj was left to chart out a roadmap for another comeback — his mission was to get fit.

While everyone marvels over his clean hitting during the ton against the West Indies A, the most impressive aspect was his fitness. The rigorous stint in France seems to have helped tremendously as he looks in much better shape now. If there was any major hurdle in his way, it was his fitness and for now the signs are encouraging. During his early days, he was one of the fittest players in the Indian team and threw himself around the field with mind-boggling agility. If he can get anywhere close to it, his career would take a turn for the better.

However, a comeback wouldn’t be the easiest task this time around. Last year, the Indian team weren’t at their best and there were spots up for grabs. This time, India have won major tournaments courtesy of youngsters. They have back-ups for each spot and there are men waiting in the wings. The competition is tougher, but Yuvraj has experience on his side. The only way he can get back is to keep performing and push himself in the scheme of things.

The fact that he was picked for the India A side is in itself proof that the selectors are watching him closely and are interested. In his first innings, he has taken the right step by capitalising on the opportunity. It is only a positive move and one shouldn’t read too much into it. He has to do more to prove his form and fitness, then his experience should get him back into the one-day side.

It isn’t Yuvraj alone who has set his eyes on a comeback. Yusuf Pathan too scripted an attacking innings and has to show consistency to merit a call-up. A few days from now, Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag will also make their shot at a comeback. Interestingly, Zaheer Khan — who was in France along with Yuvraj, will also have a chance to shine. This is a crucial phase for Indian cricket as a few tried and tested warriors are fighting their own battles. Yuvraj has set the ball rolling; time for him and the others to build on it.

Nishad Pai Vaidya/Cricketcountry.com

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