Once India’s Game-Changer, Yuvraj’s Weak IPL Show Could Cost Him
At 36, it seems the doors have now permanently shut on Yuvraj Singh’s hopes of an international recall.
For most of his wonderful career, Yuvraj Singh was the man his team went to in a crisis. Whether it was with the bat, the ball or on the field, Yuvi was always capable of producing the spectacular… he was a true game-changer, a man you would always want in your line-up just for the promise of his impact.
But things have changed, and when Kings XI Punjab were faced with the prospect of a must-win game against the Chennai Super Kings, they left Yuvraj off the team sheet. The man who been the vital cog in both, the World T20 in 2007 and the World Cup in 2011 was now not even good enough to make it to the Kings XI Punjab team.
Sadly, his numbers this season would have done little to instil any confidence in him either. Having scored only 65 runs in his eight matches at an average of 10.83 and a strike rate of 89.04, Yuvraj has had an underwhelming season.
The fact that he’s hardly bowled (two overs) this season and that his fielding has fallen away dramatically has meant that he offers very little to his captain now.
Yuvi’s ‘No Impact’ IPL Seasons
It is said time and tide wait for no man, and at age 36, it seems the doors have now permanently shut on Yuvraj’s hopes of an international recall. And while the IPL has been good to him financially, he has never quite had the impact he would have wanted.
After years of teams paying top dollar for him – Rs 14 crores by RCB in 2015, Rs 16 crores by DD in 2016, Rs 7 crore by SRH in 2017 – this year he attracted no bids until KXIP picked him up for his base price of Rs 2 crore. Next year, even that would be a stretch, after his performance this season.
No Replacement for Yuvi in Indian Team Yet?
Few players have had such an impact on India’s white ball cricket teams. Yuvraj was one of the stars of the inaugural World T20 in South Africa, where his decimation of one of the modern great pacemen, Stuart Broad, paved the way for India’s eventual victory. In the 2011 World Cup, he was the man India relied on, with both bat and ball, as they swept to their second World Cup title after a gap of 28 years.
For years, it was his explosive batting in the middle order that allowed the likes of Rahul Dravid and MS Dhoni to build an innings around him.
His slow left-arm spin, delivered with a round-arm action was tough to hit and got India several critical breakthroughs.
At times, he was given the responsibility of being the fifth bowler and at others, he was a more than able back up. He was greased lightning at point where little, if anything, got past him, and before the likes of Jadeja, Kohli and Pandey came along, he set the standards for India in the field.
Even today, there is a place in the team for a batting all-rounder who can bowl a few crucial overs of spin. In the ODI and T20 squads announced for England, none of the Indian top-order batsmen are viable bowling options. It is the one Achilles heel in an otherwise formidable line-up.
So while there might be ready replacements for the likes of MS Dhoni, the selectors haven’t quite managed to find anyone to make up for Yuvraj’s absence in the team.
The ‘Spectacular’ Comeback
But his is an absence we will have to get used to. After a career spanning 18 years, where he conquered not just some formidable opposition on the field but also fought off his most dangerous opponent –– cancer. Coming back from near death to getting back in the Indian team was perhaps an even bigger achievement than all the runs he scored, or the wickets he took.
But there is no denying that his efficacy was greatly reduced since his comeback. In the 274 matches he played before his treatment, he scored over 8,000 runs at an average of 37.62, while in the 30 matches he has played since his return, he has scored just 650 – 150 of those coming in a monumental knock against England – at an average of just over 28.
Even more striking is the difference in his bowling figures. Until the start of the 2011 World Cup, he had picked up 109 wickets at just over 37 runs apiece. Since his return in 2012, he could manage only two more wickets at an average of 117!
He has come a long way from being the youngster who preferred roller-skating to pursuing cricket, having been forced to follow the dreams of his father who never quite reached the heights he thought he was destined to.
Whenever he does walk away from the game, Yuvraj will leave as a legend of white ball cricket, a man whose contribution can’t be measured by the weight of his runs alone – the manner in which he scored them was even more critical to India’s many successes in his era.
(Hemant Buch is broadcaster and writer who's worked for over two decades in this field. Cricket is his profession, and racket sports, his passion. He tweets @hemantbuch)
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