Yuvraj Singh’s imminent comeback is set to become a memorable moment for cricket fans. His inspirational fight against cancer has made him a national hero and his return back to international cricket is a climax in that tale. At the other end of the spectrum is Harbhajan Singh – whose return to the National team has been baffling, to put it mildly, Nishad Pai Vaidya discusses the return of the two Singhs.
It is a moment that is set to inspire millions – one that would remain etched in the memory of a cricket-crazy nation. Yuvraj Singh – the man who fought the tough battle against cancer is on the threshold of realising his dream – something that may have seemed a distant conclusion during the draining fight a few months ago. The two T20s against New Zealand present India a fantastic opportunity to test a few combinations ahead of the ICC World T20 2012. However, the climax to Yuvraj’s amazing story would dominate the headlines – and rightly so.
When India’s squad for the ICC World T20 was announced, the general opinion was that emotions trumped logic and Yuvraj was included on sentimental grounds. His popularity sky-rocketed after masterminding India’s World Cup triumph in 2011 and emerging as the “Player of the Tournament”. But it’s his fight against cancer that endeared him to the masses as the nation prayed for his life. It was a story that tugged the heart. Perhaps the selectors were swayed by the weight of emotions. Barring a few practice games over the last few weeks, Yuvraj hasn’t played competitive cricket since the Kolkata Test against West Indies in November last year.
However, time and again, Yuvraj has given ample evidence of his remarkable grit and fighting spirit. As a youngster, he showed tremendous temperament in tough situations and carved his niche as a finisher for India in the one-dayers. If one looks at some of India’s most memorable wins over the last decade, Yuvraj is right up there with the weight of his contributions. These performances weren’t just pivotal, but were powerful – something that would turn the tide in India’s favour and make a strong statement.
Be it the NatWest series 2002 – where Sourav Ganguly’s India announced themselves as the ones to watch out for – or the ICC World T20 2007 – where the Young Turks under Mahendra Singh Dhoni wrote their names in the history books, Yuvraj has led the way and inspired the team with his fantastic feats. However, his performance in the 2011 World Cup is one that beats the others in terms of sheer magnitude of effect. Not only he dazzled with the bat, but he also doubled up as a fifth bowler to help India strike the right balance throughout the tournament. It was even more special considering the rough patch he had endured in the year leading up to the tournament – a phase where many had written him off.
The Yuvraj who will take the field against New Zealand on Saturday would undoubtedly be a changed man. He has fought a battle much larger than the one he was usually accustomed to on the field of play. The whole experience would have made him a more stronger and mature person. That would help him deal with pressure better as that would be nothing when compared to the nervous times he would have had fighting cancer. Keith Miller, the great Australian cricketer who flew fighter jets during World War II once said, “Pressure. I’ll tell you what pressure is. Pressure is a Messerschmitt up your ****; playing cricket is not.”
India will now be praying for Yuvraj’s success on his return back to cricket. With emotions running high, they would want to see the southpaw regain his old touch and scale new peaks. Yuvraj has a few more years of international cricket ahead of him and if he can replicate his success or raise the bar, it would be the ultimate fairytale.
Harbhajan’s recall is truly baffling
While Yuvraj’s comeback bloods in a sense of excitement and anticipation, the other Singh’s re-entry into the national team is baffling to say the least. Harbhajan has been a shadow of his former self for quite some time and his selection is inexplicable. During the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2012, he was hardly effective and wasn’t able to strike. He regained some form in county cricket during his stint with Essex. But was it good enough to help him make a well-earned comeback? A pertinent point to be noted is that he hasn’t played T20 cricket since the IPL.
The most worrying factor in Harbhajan’s decline and fall was that he had stopped turning the ball. There was the occasional doosra, but the conventional off-spinners hardly turned. The lovely loop that once sounded the death knell for a number of batsmen bizarrely vanished. Instead, he continued to fire them in at some pace and became all too predictable.
It isn’t clear whether Harbhajan has stopped firing them in and regained his lost touch during his time with Essex. If in case he has, then his inclusion may make some sense as that is the only way he can contribute to India’s cause. Otherwise, the old tactic of darting them in wouldn’t serve well and he may have to pay the price for it.
This wouldn’t be the first time Harbhajan would be making a comeback to the international arena. In 2001, Ganguly backed him to perform and he repaid that faith with an epic performance against Australia at home. Then in 2007, Harbhajan was one of the casualties of shocking first round exit at the 2007 World Cup. However, he returned much stronger later that year and was in good touch in the two years that followed. Will it be a third successful resurrection for the “Turbanator”?
(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and an analyst for the site’s YouTube Channel. He shot to fame by spotting a wrong replay during IPL4 which resulted in Sachin Tendulkar's dismissal. His insights on the game have come in for high praise from cerebral former cricketers. He can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nishad_44 )