Moment of reckoning for Yuvraj Singh as tough decision looms over India future
"It was a complete performance. We have been playing some good cricket leading up to this game,” this is what India captain Virat Kohli said in the post-match conference after his team's emphatic win over the West Indies in the second ODI of the five-match series in Trinidad.
Though not many would disagree with Kohli on this statement after the resounding victory but this is also a fact that it only shows one side of the coin. Once again, Team India’s top-order played brilliantly and did the bulk of the scoring. The trio of Rahane, Dhawan and Kohli put on 253 runs out of the total of 310 which speaks volumes about their contribution at the top.
This has also been the case in the recently-concluded ICC Champions Trophy, where Rohit Sharma, Dhawan and Kohli almost single-handedly took India to the finals with their antics with the bat. Despite that, the experts voiced their concerns about the over-reliance of the Indian team on their top-three which can prove harmful in case the trio had a bad day in the field. Unfortunately, that one-off day proved decisive in India’s hopes of lifting the coveted title as the defending champions lost to an inspiring Pakistan team in the summit clash.
For the first time in the tournament, the middle order of the Indian team was tested and it failed big time which eventually made the difference in the final. Questions were asked from Kohli about his blind faith in the abilities of two veteran stalwarts – Yuvraj Singh and MS Dhoni - who are clearly passed their prime. However, with Dhoni’s sharp wicket-keeping skills and fitness intact, the dangling sword viciously turned its direction towards India’s most celebrated limited-overs cricketer – Yuvraj Singh.
After a blistering half-century against Pakistan in the India’s Champions Trophy opener, the southpaw has clearly looked out of sorts since then. In the last seven ODIs, the dashing southpaw has managed to get only 123 runs (53, 7, 23*, DNB, 22, 4, 14) which are not enough for a number four batsman. After failing to deliver in the big finale, the stylish left-hander recorded a couple of more batting failures in the ongoing ODI series against the inexperienced West Indies side. The consistent failure of Yuvraj has once again reignited the long debate over his place in the playing XI. It is hard fact to accept for every Indian cricket fan but with age catching up, Yuvi is not the same player as he once used to be. The man, who holds the unique record against his name of playing the most number of appearances in the finals of the ICC event (seven times), is clearly struggling at the moment.
Once a livewire on the field, a player who almost single-handedly remodelled the standards of fielding in the Indian side, is now almost a liability on the field. In batting, he is still capable enough of producing one or two cameos for the side but it is not justifiable to the younger players waiting in the wings and are consistently knocking the doors hard.
In Kohli’s Team India, Yuvraj has more often batted at the No.4 spot which also raises a few eyebrows including of former coach Anil Kumble who expressed his reservation about his playing order. With his batting abilities on the decline, Yuvraj is no more a right fit at the number four spot which can be duly filled with more specialist batsmen like – Kedar Jadhav, Dinesh Karthik or Manish Pandey (if he is fit).
In simple cricketing sense, because batting at No.4 means that you have more deliveries available to bat and, therefore, a bigger opportunity of building partnership and scoring more runs than at No.5 and 6. Maybe a player like Yuvraj is better off while batting lower down at this stage than at No.4, where he can go bat freely and play his shots.
But, if we look at the larger picture and prepare a road of Indian cricket for the future, it is clear that a star batsman like Yuvraj Singh will find it hard to feature in India’s playing XI in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019.
In a cricket frenzy nation like India, it is always hard to bid adieu to your favourite superstars whom you have admired for so long but it is also the fact that one needs to take the harsh calls when the interest of the nation is at stake!