Return of the awe-inspiring entertainers
Yuvraj, Pietersen are back in the fold after having overcome two very contrasting evils
There are no better entertainers in world cricket than Yuvraj Singh and Kevin Pietersen in full throttle.
Yuvraj carries all the natural elegance of a left-hander without losing one bit of his ability to dominate the opposition, and Pietersen matches his Indian counterpart with undiluted aggression and sparkling stroke-play.
But cricketing fraternity nearly lost these two breathtaking batsmen in contrasting circumstances. Yuvraj was on top of the world after leading India’s successful campaign in World Cup last year, but fate pushed his world into darkness in the form of cancer, and a comeback seemed distant at that juncture.
Ego is the cancer that eats into Pietersen’s mind. Pietersen’s longing to preserve his own space landed him in big trouble early this year when a few controversial text messages about his colleagues to South African players forced ECB to omit Pietersen from England’s squads for the World T20 and tour of India.
Yuvraj needed to battle his own body after several rounds of chemo therapy to recover his endurance, and he did so in stunning fashion. The authorities also supported him big time naming the Punjab southpaw in the Indian squad for the World T20, and subsequently for the Test series against England in place of Suresh Raina.
Indian skipper MS Dhoni welcomed the return of Yuvraj to the fold. “He is an aggressive character. He is someone who wants to perform at the top level, which is Test cricket. He bats at no. 5 or no 6, and his left-arm spin is very crucial for us because we don’t have a genuine all-rounder, and we play four bowlers.
“So it’s important that the part-timers contribute. Especially in that phase when the ball becomes old and you are waiting for new ball, and you can’t use your fast bowler or spinners. I feel his contribution will be very important. He is quite intimidating the way he bats,” Dhoni said.
Pietersen needed to battle his egocentric self to return to England set-up. After several rounds of talks with ECB bigwigs and England team director Andy Flower, the Surrey batsman was welcomed back to the team through a “re-integration” process.
Perhaps, it was also a move stemming from the awareness that without Pietersen’s ability to tackle spin, England might come a cropper in India. Nevertheless, England skipper Alastair Cook was more than happy to see his main batsman back in the inner ring.
“It’s good to have Kev back. He’s a guy who can change games very quickly, like he did in Colombo, and he can win matches for us. Not many people can do that. The whole side has adapted the situation that’s happened over the last few months, and we’ve drawn a line under it and moved on. He’s moved on and the lads have also moved on,” Cook said.
“What I don’t want to change is his confidence, and his swagger because that’s what makes him such a great player. As a captain, that’s what you want.”
Both Yuvraj and Pietersen had showed their readiness for Test cricket, cracking a double hundred in Duleep Trophy and a hundred against Haryana in warm-up game here respectively.
Yuvraj and Pietersen also share a special bond that, perhaps, started in Mohali during England’s tour three years ago. Pietersen had labeled Yuvraj’s left-arm spin as “pie-chucking” after getting out to the Indian on a couple of occasions.
The fun part has not lost on Indian captain MS Dhoni. “We will enjoy the contest between him and the pie-chucker.”
“But that apart, I never doubted that Kevin won’t be a part of the England squad. He is a great batsman, who loves to play his shots.”
So, let’s welcome back these two awe-inspiring performers.