Yuvraj and Harbhajan Should Take a Leaf Out of Nehra’s Book

Unanswered questions linger about the selection of Yuvraj Singh and Harbhajan Singh for the World T20.

Updated
Sports
4 min read
Harbhajan Singh (L), Ashish Nehra (C) and Yuvraj Singh (R). (Photo: Facebook.com/CircleofCricket.HarbhajanSingh)

Another World Cup is on the shelf and an enigmatic team of West Indian players has danced their way into the hearts of fans all around the world. India fell marginally short, falling to the eventual champions in the semifinals.

One of the reasons India fell short was the team composition – unanswered questions linger about the selection of Yuvraj Singh and Harbhajan Singh into the fifteen that made up the Indian challenge. Clearly riding downhill, the two of them have struggled to justify their role on the team.

On the other hand, Ashish Nehra, just two months shy of his 37th birthday, proved he isn’t a spent force despite being senior on the timeline to both Yuvraj and Harbhajan. Nehra used his experience wisely keeping one end tied up with his intelligent variations and fullish straight deliveries.

The case of Harbhajan is especially curious, given his stature as a legendary spinner for Indian cricket. He has an impressive haul of 563 and 269 wickets in Tests and ODIs respectively, underlining a hugely successful career as a front-line bowler.

But over the past month, Bhajji has been busy doing errands for the team with no active role to play. The fact that he was warming the bench behind Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, doesn’t do much to further his cause, even if he is just battling to force his way back into the team.



Harbhajan Singh has been busy doing errands for the team with no active role to play. (Photo: AP)
Harbhajan Singh has been busy doing errands for the team with no active role to play. (Photo: AP)

It must hurt at several levels for Harbhajan – whose abiding memories ought to be the 2001 series against Australia and the 2007-08 series against South Africa, when he played a decisive role in helping India win the series. But injuries and loss of form have seen Harbhajan lose relevance in the current setup.

The IPL and growth of T20 has made it difficult for players such as Harbhajan to face reality with an objective mind. The incentive to play on is far too high and monetary rewards are clouding the ability of players to make an objective assessment of the ill effects of meandering their way down the money trail.

Yuvraj too has been a memorable part of some important Indian celebrations in the past. He was instrumental in helping India win the inaugural WT20 in 2007 and the ODI World Cup in 2011. The 12 ball fifty in 2007 and his enormous contribution with bat (362 runs) and ball (15 wickets) at the 2011 World Cup stand testimony to the mercurial powers of Yuvraj.

His subsequent battle with cancer and return to cricket created a massive wave of empathy among cricket fans that could connect emotionally with his plight. Save for an oddball performance here and there, the left hander has been struggling to play meaningful cricket since his return.

Even though the writing on the wall has been clear, lack of consensus within the team management and the absence of conviction in the minds of the players has resulted in a muddled outcome that clearly threatens to harm the legacy of these two players.

Yuvraj Singh. (Photo: AP)
Yuvraj Singh. (Photo: AP)

Nehra has been a pleasant contrast to the plight of Yuvraj and Harbhajan. Despite questions surrounding his role at an advanced stage, the Delhi pacer has proved his utility beyond doubt in the recently concluded WT20.

He may have only taken five wickets, but he provided early breakthroughs to the team throughout the event. He also produced spells of sustained brilliance to keep things tight, often below six an over, to lay the foundation for the team’s victory.

In stark contrast with Yuvraj and Harbhajan, who seem driven by monetary incentive, Nehra seems motivated by a keen desire to redeem himself with a memorable last lap.

He has proven beyond question that if you can maintain discipline, work hard and embrace common sense, cricketers can reinvent themselves into productive weapons in the shortest format, even late in their careers.

Considering that both Yuvraj and Harbhajan are an integral part of the upcoming IPL season and continue to harbor aspirations to play for India, they ought to take a leaf out of Nehra’s book.

Ashish Nehra celebrates a wicket with his teammates. (Photo: AP)
Ashish Nehra celebrates a wicket with his teammates. (Photo: AP)

It is foolhardy for them to expect that talent alone will see them through their twilight years. It takes renewed dedication and application to cricket to produce dignified performances on the field.

With the IPL round the corner, Yuvraj and Harbhajan have one final chance to prove that they are willing to sweat it out in trying to make a difference to their teams. However, if they just add up to the numbers without making a real contribution, it could only serve to hasten their exit and tarnish their reputation.

The choice is clear – perform or perish. The writing is on the wall. We can only hope that Yuvraj and Harbhajan can read the obvious and correct course before it is too late.

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