Inconsistent Yuvraj puts Test career on the line
Punjab left-hander fast running out of time
On a rainy afternoon over two years ago at the Loughborough University training centre, Yuvraj Singh spoke at length about his disappointment at not being able to seal a place in the Indian Test side.
There was a tinge of annoyance and bewilderment in his voice then, and it was perfectly justified. Despite being a certainty in one-dayers and Twenty20s, the dashing left-hander, in Tests, resembles a lonely traveller in a remote country side – weary and searching for the right route.
It would have been certainly exasperating for somebody who has loads of talent and widely tipped to take Indian cricket forward in the days to come.
His frustration was quite understandable as the Punjab left-hander had a miserable tour to the West Indies in mid 2006 where he managed to score just 104 runs from four Tests at 17.33. Yuvraj had to wait for well over a year to get another chance in the five-day format.
An ebullient hundred against Pakistan followed utter disaster in Australia where batting order was reshuffled to accommodate him.
Another round of banishment followed before making a return in the series against Sri Lanka at home. A reasonable performance, 158 runs from three matches at 52.66, earned him a ticket to Bangladesh for the on-going two-match Test series.
The stylish batsman had a fine chance to show his mettle in the first Test at Chittagong that India eventually won by 113 runs. Yuvraj came to the middle when India were tottering at 107 for four with Sachin Tendulkar holding the fort at one end.
It was a golden opportunity for Yuvraj to stick around with the master and play a long innings. Yuvraj is no stranger to such a situation as the Punjabi has proved in the past that he can grind an attack down. Rewind your memory to the Chennai Test against England in 2008.
The same Tendulkar-Yuvraj combination then defied a desperate England attack for nearly a full day to give India one of the most remarkable Test victories in their history. Back then, even Tendulkar was impressed by the maturity of Yuvraj while playing an out of character innings.
Cut to present, the southpaw, ever so inexplicably, played a casual scoop off a full-toss from Shakib al Hasan to give a tame catch to Rubel Hossain. There was a sardonic smile on Yuvraj’s face while returning to the pavilion. He, perhaps, was thinking of the ways fate has in store to keep him in the clutches of peril.
Agreed, he bats at a difficult position in Tests, number six, but that makes it all the more significant for him to grab all the chances that come across. Now, Yuvraj will get another opportunity to make a strong beginning to the year in the second Test in Dhaka, beginning on January 24. It is imperative for him get some runs against his name as India will play another ten Tests this year; a confident and settled Yuvraj is vital for the team in an important season.
That an array of youngsters is† waiting in the wings should fill Yuvraj with a sense of urgency. The list of contenders is quite lengthy -- Cheteswar Pujara, S Badrinath, Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma and M Vijay have already been there while Virat Kohli and Manish Pandey have too been among runs of late.
But his recent form and maturity, perhaps, have taken Kohli a step ahead of others. “Virat is doing well of late as some other youngsters. It is good to see intense competition. They are pushing others for a place in the side as nobody can be guaranteed a place,” skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni said.
Will Yuvraj heed the call?