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Time for Yuvraj to take a call on his Test career

G Unnikrishnan, Mumbai, Dec 21, 2012, DHNS: 22:30 IST

Southpaws decision will help India

A major puzzle: A match-winner in limited overs cricket, Yuvraj Singh has somehow failed to extend his success to the gruelling Test arena. pti
If Yuvraj Singh has been looking for a clue about charting the remainder of his cricketing career, the first T20 against England at Pune offered it.

There was Yuvraj Singh scything through the England top order with a three-wicket burst and tearing the visitors’ bowlers apart with a powerful cameo. He was the guiding force behind India’s comfortable five-wicket victory at the Subrata Roy Sahara stadium on Thursday.

Knowing Yuvraj’s vulnerability against spin in the early stages of his innings, England captain Eoin Morgan introduced tweakers Danny Briggs and James Tredwell from both ends, only for the Punjab left-hander to milk some easy runs.

Now, replace that image with Yuvraj in flannels. You’ll find a batsman struggling to impose himself on the opposition, all at sea against top quality spin of Monty Panesar and Graeme Swann. Admittedly, Briggs and Tredwell are not quite in the same class as their seniors, but in coloured clothes Yuvraj seemed a lot more liberated. There was that sense of belongingness in his performance.

Even Yuvraj himself admitted it. “It was T20. So I played with a lot more freedom.” Yes, he has nailed the issue. Yuvraj needs that free atmosphere to express himself, and the subtleties of Test cricket demands a meticulous approach, and careful planning over multiple sessions. At times a batsman even needs to vary one’s game session by session.
Rahul Dravid had showed us that several times. Sometimes, he would go into a cage in one session, blocking ball after ball and waging an intense battle in the middle. All of a sudden he would come out of that dimly-lit boxing ring with a flurry of boundaries, upsetting the well-charted out plans of opposition. It was wonderful pacing of innings.

A batsman like Virender Sehwag would approach that in a different way, muscling the opponents down like a street bully. But then he’s an exception than a norm. It was Yuvraj’s struggling point. He never could find the patience and meticulousness of Dravid, and he couldn’t overcome the technical susceptibilities against spin, like Sehwag did early in his career against short-pitched ball, not allowing him to express himself fully. Hence, there was always that tentativeness about Yuvraj’s batting in Tests.

In that sense, Yuvraj has a predecessor -- Michael Bevan of Australia. Despite being hailed as one of the finest one-day batsman in history, Bevan never really managed to translate that potential into Test cricket. Initially, the left-hander found it hard to digest the fact that he would never make it big in the traditional format, but once that reality set in Bevan transformed himself into a wonderful finisher in 50-over cricket.

There was a time when Yuvraj would react strongly to questions regarding his fight for a place in the Test side, and let the world know of his disappointment about not cementing a place in the longer version despite a decade long attempt. Then he would have stressed on his desire to be in the pantheon of India’s Test greats, but on Thursday, there was a difference when that inevitable question about his Test career was thrown at him.

There was no fight. There was no standard “confident of coming back strongly soon” reply. There was only an air of acceptance.

“Honestly, I don’t want to reply to that question. I am quite happy that I am living, and I no longer care what format I play -- Tests, one-dayers or T20s -- as long as I play for India,” he said rather stoically.

It’s quite tough to trace the source of that detachment. It could be his triumphant battle against cancer or his failures in the recent series against England. But that awareness about his limitations and accepting it would only make him a stronger player in his pet formats.

India are due to face England in the second T20 here on Saturday, and then there are two more T20s against Pakistan, followed by one-dayers against Pakistan and England. A focused Yuvraj could be India’s biggest asset.

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