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By Binu Thomas
India’s Twenty20 International (T20I) team is on a high after back-to-back wins against former T20 champions — Pakistan and West Indies. And these are no small teams. Honestly, the back-to-back wins have not surprised me. We have a strong team with genuine match winners. Right from Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli in the top order to Suresh Raina, Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Ravindra Jadeja in the middle and lower order, we have batting depth. We can, theoretically, chase down a huge score.
But that hasn’t happened right? Surprise, surprise… our bowlers were instrumental in the convincing wins. Amit Mishra has had a comeback of sorts with man of the match performances. Suddenly, no one is talking about the 10-ball thrashing he received in the practice session from Dhoni. Pace bowlers have played the supporting role. Batsmen just did what was required from them — to chase down the achievable target with relative ease. Everything looks hunky-dory now for team India. We suddenly look like championship material with fewer weak links.
But one such weak link is Yuvraj Singh.
Based on his recent statistics and the common perception of the player, I am sure you will respond by saying “He’s played just two T20 games so far” and that “Form is temporary, class is permanent”. Very true. In fact “Yuvraj” and “weak link” cannot be used in the same sentence. But unfortunately, that’s what it has come down to. His contribution in the two matches his team has played (and won) in the ICC World T20 2014 has been poor and abysmal compared to his own high standards. His batting confidence has deteriorated. The way he has given away his wicket in both the matches shows a lack of application. The sitter he dropped off Chris Gayle is completely unlike the Yuvraj we know and admire. The one over he bowled isn’t worth mentioning. He doesn’t even look part of the team setup. So far, we have managed to win despite his apparent lack of form.
Team India has batsmen who can bowl those 3-4 overs of spin. Jadeja is included in the team as an all-rounder. There’s Raina who can bowl off-spin and is brought in to bowl primarily to left-handers. Rohit can bowl an over or two. This is over and above bowlers like Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Ravichandran Ashwin and Mishra. That’s a total of 4 bowlers, 1 all-rounder and 2 part-timers for 20 overs. Wonder where Yuvraj fits in? Interestingly, India has a suitable replacement for Yuvraj in Jadeja. Jadeja is known to play that crucial innings at the death, bowls miserly, takes wickets at important junctures and is a good fielder — everything that Yuvraj does! If Yuvraj is taken as a two-down batsman to add to the batting depth, isn’t he more of a risk when we will, in all probability, be entering the business end (Read: knockouts) of the tournament? Is an in-form Ajinkya Rahane better than a struggling Yuvraj?
I have always believed that any cricketer worth his salt is just one game away from regaining his form. And Yuvraj is no different. He is a special cricketer. For all we know, he can come in to bat the next T20 game, score a quick-fire 50 and win it for his team. Or bowl that crucial #OneBigOver (the way they are promoting WT20 this year) in the middle of the innings and swing the match India’s way. Or can dive and catch the ball out of thin air or effect a match altering run-out. He is capable of all this and more. But capability is just one half of the story. The other half — performance — is what he is lacking.
So, is this the right time to drop Yuvraj from the playing 11? Dhoni is known to give long rope to the players he believe in and he may just persist with Yuvraj. For now, I feel we need to continue with him, win against Bangladesh and confirm our presence in the semi-finals. Then, think of resting a top-order batsman like Kohli /Rohit and allow Rahane to play against Australia. See who among Yuvraj and Rahane is more suitable for Team India and make a calculated choice for the semi-finals. After all, the collective intention is to win the ICC World T20 — with or without any specific player.
(Binu Thomas is an analyst by profession and a Blogger and Sports Writer by passion. Avid Book Reader & Reviewer. He blogs at Bloggers Park. He follows Cricket, Soccer, Formula 1, Lawn Tennis. He is a lifelong fan of Rahul Dravid, Arsenal Football Club, Kimi Raikkonen and Andre Agassi. He writes about the current happenings in the game of Cricket and how it will affect all the stakeholders including the passionate followers of the game. He can be followed on twitter @Binugthomas)
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