Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Yuvraj will always be a match-winner



MUMBAI: The 2011 ICC World Cup was a high point in Yuvraj Singh's chequered career. It was his all-round performances in crunch situations (362 runs and 15 wickets) which took India into the final at the Wankhede from where MS Dhoni took over. Since then a lot of water has flown under the bridge.


Yuvraj, following his bout with cancer, has struggled to cement his place in the Indian team. There were concerns over his form and fitness and the 32-year-old tackled the latter with a certain degree of seriousness by heading to France last year where he chiseled himself back into shape. But he still has to address his issues with the bat.

In the five-match ODI series against Australia at home last year, he struggled against Mitchell Johnson's searing pace and after the tour of South Africa, where he batted just once and subsequently lost his place in the squad, he went back to domestic cricket to grapple with his gremlins.

By including him in the squad for the ICC T20 Championships which gets underway in Bangladesh on March 16, the selectors have thrown Yuvraj another lifeline to revive his flagging career. Sandeep Patil and Co probably realise that the strapping lefthander has a heady chemistry with multi-team events and it is a stage where he comes into his own, like he did by slamming England's Stuart Broad for six sixes in an over in 2007.

"From the day he started playing for India, he has been a match-winner and I am sure it will continue to be that way till he plays competitive cricket. He's gone through a lot in recent times but there's still a lot of cricket left in him," says former selector Kiran More.

Those close to the Punjab player say that Yuvraj has set right the technical glitches and is raring to go. In the recent BCCI corporate trophy, where he represented Air India, the all-rounder worked on his game with coach Pravin Amre. He did score 96 against Delhi in a tight ODI game last week on a difficult pitch and that must have boosted his confidence.

Amre, who has coached the likes of Suresh Raina and Robin Uthappa in recent times, has no doubts in his mind that Yuvraj is still India's go-to-man in a marquee event, which incidentally will be his first ICC event after the 2011 World Cup. "There are very few like him in limited overs cricket. He is a genuine all-rounder.

He was man of the tournament in 2011 World Cup because of the impact he had. India can't find an all-rounder like him," says Amre. The former India batsman, who has worked closely with Yuvraj as the batting coach at the now defunct Pune Warriors, says that Yuvraj has the rare ability to turn the game on its head in the middle overs.

"If we analyse a good T20 side, we will notice that you have either a couple of destructive batsmen at the top or there are finishers in the last five overs. If you see Mumbai Indians' strategy, they hold back Kieron Pollard for the last five overs while Bangalore sends Chris Gayle as an opener.

But there are very few destructive batsmen in the middle overs and that is where Yuvraj comes out as the No 1 choice. He goes out to bat at No 4 after the Power Play in the middle overs and has such vast range of shots that it doesn't matter where the fielders are he'll clear the boundaries any way. That is what makes him special," says Amre.

Apart from being a power hitter, a game changer, a match-winner and a handy bowler, Yuvraj has added another string to his bow - that of being a mentor. There are reports that how he is helping the young Punjab squad to develop.

Indian cricket is at its lowest ebb in the wake of recent defeats and Yuvraj, with all his experience, can bring a lot on the table to a team that hasn't been able to hold their nerves in tight situations. "When it comes to Test cricket, the youngsters look up to Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid.

In the shorter versions than there is only Yuvraj. He is an inspiration for them. It's because of his special ability he automatically becomes a role model for them," says Amre.