Yuvraj needs to put in hard yards

Test cricket is a different ball game

Yuvraj Singh ambled behind a Nick Compton reverse sweep off R Aswhin, and left the chase midway allowing the English opener to collect a boundary. England’s victory was a certainty at that stage, but his lack of effort didn’t make for a pretty viewing.

A few balls later Sachin Tendulkar, few months shy of his 40th birthday, rushed behind Alistair Cook’s square cut with the enthusiasm that would have put an 18-year old to shame, preventing a four.

This comparison is not to belittle the effort Yuvraj had put in to return to the Indian team after his successful struggle against cancer. In fact, Yuvraj himself has admitted several times how he has learned to value life and cricket more after recovering from that dangerous illness.

But those two images contained a clear message – there’s no place for relaxation once you are in the national team playing international cricket. There can’t be any question on his inclusion in the eleven for the first two Tests, as he had put forward his claim scoring some good amount of runs in domestic cricket, including a double hundred in the Duleep Trophy.

It was the kind performance that erased doubts from many minds about Yuvraj’s readiness for the five-day format that demands more endurance than playing in Twenty20s. Even Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni adopted a wait-and-watch policy when asked about Yuvraj’s readiness for Test cricket before the series.

“Playing Test cricket is a different challenge, and we will see in due time whether his endurance is right up there in the course of the series,” Dhoni had said.

However, a fruitful outing in a warm-up game prompted Dhoni to accept Yuvraj’s preparations for the Test cricket. “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. The reason being, more often than not, we don’t have a genuine all-rounder, we play four bowlers. So it’s important that the part-timers contribute. I feel his contribution will be very important. He is quite intimidating when he bats,” Dhoni had said ahead of the Ahmedabad Test.

However, after two matches against England, Yuvraj might have realised the hazards of playing Test against a top side like England immediately after a more than a year’s gap.
He made a good beginning, making a 74 at Motera. But came up with a sub-par effort in the second Test at Mumbai, lasting just 10 balls in both the innings together.

His 0 and 8 once again revealed his weakness against high-quality spin, particularly in the early stages of his innings. He also didn’t get that much chance to use his left-arm spin as Dhoni had to rotate between three frontline spinners in Harbhajan Singh, R Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha.

With another spin-friendly track beckoning at the Eden Gardens, Yuvraj perforce need to come up with a forceful effort to cement his place at No 6.

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