Putting rough road behind

A torn ligament in his left knee during training in Mohali while playing kho-kho and a finger fracture on the right-hand again during a practice session kept him out of two successive Champions Trophy tournaments in 2006 (India) and 2009 (South Africa) respectively. As heart-breaking as those incidents were, the last year or so has to be the worst of his checkered career. “It was very tough, the toughest year in my 10 years of cricket,” admitted Yuvraj.

A finger fracture, a ligament tear in his wrist and a series of neck injuries forced him to miss several international assignments. On return, he failed to find his touch and was dropped for the Asia Cup in June following India’s early exit in the World T20 in the West Indies. The Punjab player won a Test spot for the Sri Lankan tour but a bit of misfortune and the promise of youngsters saw him lose his ever-shaky place in the five-day version.
Yuvraj had scored a century in a practice game and a fifty in the first Test but fell ill just before the second match. His replacement Suresh Raina slammed a century on debut to secure his berth for the final Test. The selectors had more surprises in store for the elegant batsman when they picked Cheteshwar Pujara for the two-Test home series against Australia. In between, he had been skirted off captaincy responsibilities of IPL team Kings XI Punjab and later saw himself demoted to grade ‘B’ in the BCCI contracts.
If the 29-year-old thought the whole world was conspiring against him, you couldn’t have faulted him. “I used to get thoughts that maybe should I quit (playing cricket),” remarked Yuvraj, reflecting on the phase when nothing went right for him. “I was getting injured all the time and it was tough for me to get back on the field and get a game, so those were tough days. Getting injured all the time wasn’t good, it affects both your mind and the body because there were times when I was doing nothing and getting injured. Definitely my body is getting better now and I am feeling 100 percent fit at the right time for the World Cup,” he elaborated.

While injuries have played a huge part in diminishing his aura, be it as a fielder or as a batsman, Yuvraj understands that only runs can win him back his once exalted place in the side. The hard-hitting batsman, whose career average hovers around 37, has averaged just 25.50 in his last 20 one-dayers with only three half-centuries. His last (131 against Windies) of the 12 hundreds came 32 matches earlier and almost two years ago.
There is, however, no denying the value Yuvraj adds to the side. He may not be the same fielder anymore, but his left-arm spin can be more than handy with India most likely to rely on part-timers to do the fifth bowler’s job. “I am not thinking that if I have not got runs, I need to get wickets or I need to field well,” he reasoned, stressing on his primary job in the team. “Whether I have got runs or not, I’ll go out there to do well with my bowling and my fielding. I always give my 100 percent in whatever I do. I have never considered myself a specialist bowler. I don’t back myself as a bowler but I enjoy bowling.

“From the last 50-odd one-dayers, I have been bowling more, because we don’t have a specialist left-arm spinner in the team and my job has increased to 7-10 overs and it depends on which batsmen are batting.”

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