There are some players, such as Carl Hooper, who don't do enough justice to their talent. There are some, such as Ravi Shastri, who squeeze every ounce of what they have. There are some, like L Sivaramakrishnan, whose art deserts them suddenly. And then there is Yuvraj Singh.
Always seen as a rare talent, Yuvraj has done more than his bit for India in One-day cricket but has somehow fallen short repeatedly in Test matches by sometimes looking uncomfortable against seam movement and often appearing all at sea against quality spin.
This confusion about Yuvraj was best conveyed by a former national selector: “Even if he has batted in the middle for some time, he has problems against spin.
For that matter, against pace as well, on tracks that do something.” But, in the same breath, that selector added: “We’ll obviously pick him. He’s too talented to be wasted.” To talk about Yuvraj in the current context isn't easy because of the dreaded C-word hovering in the air.
It’s a great effort to come back from illness the way he has, but a time will come when emotion is shelved and the spotlight falls on Yuvraj, the cricketer, and on what he has done during a stopstart Test career. There have been occasions when it has been easy to predict what Yuvraj would do on a wicket that offered something to the bowlers.
He would make a tiny half-prod forward, misread the length, push the bat tentatively a few times, and break free with a clip through the on-side. Emboldened, he would then go for the on-theup flash and perhaps, connect once or twice, before eventually edging. If he did survive that phase, the spinners would swallow him.
But there were days like the one in Lahore in 2004 when Yuvraj played a counter-attacking gem to get his maiden hundred on a tricky pitch after walking in at 94 for 4. There was also a knock, against Pakistan in Bangalore in 2007, when he rescued India from 61 for 4 with another aggressive 169 that match turned into a highscoring draw.
But confused as one may be about what Yuvraj brings to the Test squad, and about whether he will hit or miss, it seems a crime that he hasn’t been able to cement the No 5 slot in the batting order after Sourav Ganguly’s retirement in 2008.
What’s worse: he’s allowed other players – Virat Kohli, Cheteshwar Pujara, on occasion even Suresh Raina – to steal a march over him. It’s not as if he hasn’t worked hard. In 2008, when he was out of the Test team, Yuvraj famously slogged for hours every day, hitting the gym, the swimming pool, and the nets for daylong sessions.
Zubin Bharucha, the former Mumbai player who runs the World Cricket Academy in Mumbai, where Test players such Andrew Strauss and Mark Butcher have trained, helped Yuvraj briefly that year.
He gives this technical insight into Yuvraj’s shortcomings: “He takes his right foot out a touch late, and if the ball is slightly shorter than he thinks it will be, the trouble starts.
“The back foot stays on the leg stump, and since he has misread the length, he immediately pushes his front foot back towards the leg-stump to hold balance. By then the ball is already starting to come down, and the loose back-lift leaves no option but to follow the ball away from the body.”
This is not a new thing; these problems seem frozen in time. And time, despite all his ODI success may be running out. The next two matches against England will be critical for Yuvraj. He will have to prove, once and for all, that he has it in him to be the quality Test player the world always thought he would be.
► Even if he has batted in the middle for some time, he has problems against spin. For that matter, against pace as well, on tracks that do something
- A former selector's observation
Dinda replaces Yadav Mumbai
Despite India suffering a humiliating 10-wicket loss to England in the second Test, the selection committee of the BCCI on Tuesday decided to retain the same squad for the third Test to be played at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata.
However, it has been announced that West Bengal fast bowler Ashok Dinda will replace injured Umesh Yadav in the squad. The two teams will now travel to Kolkata for the third Test, which begins from December 5.
Media reports suggested that the selectors have put non-performing players on notice by announcing a squad only for the third test, and not for the third and fourth test as was originally planned.
Team for 3rd test: MS Dhoni (captain and WK), Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Cheteshwar Pujara, R. Ashwin, Ashok Dinda, Pragyan Ojha, Ajinkya Rahane, Harbhajan Singh, Ishant Sharma, Murali Vijay and Zaheer Khan.