By Aayush Puthran
Cricket hasn’t been a fair game. Talent has got wasted and enough talent never got an opportunity. Bad luck beset on many. Yuvraj Singh’s Test career, while falling in the realm of the above three, has been a special case. For a man who formed the pivot of India’s limited-overs side for over 12 years, guiding them to two World Cup title triumphs, playing a crucial role in India’s most successful captain’s lone multi-nation cup victory and showing all the promise of brilliant batting in the longer form of the game, he never got his career going.
Four years back when Sourav Ganguly had announced retirement from international cricket, Yuvraj was expected, without stiff competition, to take his position in the side. However, he couldn’t make the opportunity count. In 14 matches following the former Indian skipper’s retirement, Yuvraj has scored 716 runs at an average of 37.68
Cheteshwar Pujara’s century in the first Test more or less sealed another spot, left vacant by subsequent retirements, in the Indian team. Given Pujara’s temperament and consistency at various levels, one would expect him to stay there for long.
For almost a decade, while Badrinath has been scoring heavily in the domestic circuit and making a statement for his selection in the national team for long, Yuvraj was given an unconditional place in the wings while the “Fab Four” were wielding their magic. After having spent a greater part of his Test career carrying drinks, Yuvraj had to face the curse of poor form, injuries and ill-health. In that period, Pujara and Kohli raced ahead of him.
Like Yuvraj, Murali Kartik has been another cricketer whose Test career, for unexplainable reason, has languished. Playing the third best to Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh for most part of his career, even brilliant performances at international level wasn’t good enough for him to cement his place.
Unlike Kartik, Yuvraj can take solace from the fact that Raina hasn’t done enough to stake a claim in the team for long. He has been undone by the short ball and averages merely 29.58 in 26 outings. On the other hand, Badrinath doesn’t seem to enjoy the confidence of the selectors.
Yuvraj has himself gone on record saying that he still isn’t fit enough to play in the longer format of the game. The day he does regain his fitness, it will be tough for the selectors to bring him back into the side given his age. They might prefer giving Raina a longer rope. Maybe they would even try Rohit Sharma or Manoj Tiwary ahead of him. Given Yuvraj’s track record and effectiveness in the sorter versions of the game, selectors would choose to preserve him.
A veteran of 274 ODIs in which he accumulated over 8,000 runs and 109 wickets might just see his Test career dying a painless death. A brief career that saw the display of magical artistry at Lahore, Bangalore, Karachi and Chennai, studded with three centuries against arch-rivals Pakistan, has failed to take a flight and remains in danger of never taking in the future.
(While enjoying the small joys of life, rarely has anything mesmerised Aayush Puthran more than cricket. A student of Journalism in Mumbai, he is trying to figure out two things: ways to make Test cricket a commercial hot property and the best way to beat Mumbai traffic. He has a certain sense of obsession with novelty. He might seem confused, but he is just battling a thousand demons within his mind. Nonetheless, he is always up for a light-hearted chat over a few cups of coffee! )