image_20131104160555

Yuvraj Singh (right) and Suresh Raina scored a combined total of 119 runs in eight innings against Australia in the recently-concluded ODI series © PTI

By Devarchit Varma

While almost every player from each side who could bat a bit, revelled in the recently-concluded seven-match One-Day International (ODI) series between India and Australia, the hosts’ key players — Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina — had a disappointing run with their shortcomings being exposed badly by the Australian bowlers. Even though one bad series isn’t enough a reason to sweat about, the reasons behind the failure cannot be ignored — especially in the case of Yuvraj and Raina as India gear up for a tougher season ahead with few overseas tours.

Even as the recently-concluded series will go on to be remembered for the numerous batting records that tumbled, a series that forced cricket fraternity to rethink whether 350 is a safe total any longer. However, amid all the fiesta time that batsmen had, it will be hard to ignore that Yuvraj and Raina stood out as failures.

As the series saw most runs scored by an individual in a bilateral competition, most runs by the two teams in a series, a double ton, a total of nine centuries and 18 half-centuries, the figures of the two southpaws is nothing short of disappointing.

While Raina garnered an unimpressive 100 runs in four innings at an average of 25, Yuvraj flopped miserably with mere 19 runs in as many outings at a shockingly low average of 4.75. Their poor run isn’t restricted to just the India-Australia ODI series.  Raina scored his last ODI century way back in January 2010 against Sri Lanka at Dhaka, and Yuvraj’s last ton came against the West Indies in the 2011 ICC World Cup at Chennai.

One may argue that Yuvraj hasn’t played much international cricket (17 ODIs) since the World Cup win and Raina doesn’t often get to bat up in the order, but the cut-throat competition in the Indian ODI side, especially in the batting department, must also be kept in mind. The likes of Ajinkya Rahane, Dinesh Karthik, Ambati Rayudu, Manoj Tiwary, and few more are capable of occupying those slots. The fact that both Yuvraj and Raina got the chance to bat at No 4 and 5 — ideal spot for specialist batsmen — throughout the series against Australia shows the faith MS Dhoni and the Indian team management had put on them. However, their performances must have let down a lot of people.

Yuvraj and Raina played key roles in India’s World Cup win in 2011. They still have it in them to win matches for India. But unfortunately, their performances of late haven’t been up to the level of the talent they possess. Moreover, the trouble rises many folds when their shortcomings against a specific style of attack is split wide open — something that Mitchell Johnson exploited well in the recently-concluded series.

As India gear up for their defence of the 50-over World Cup title in Australia and New Zealand, they will be in a much comfortable state if their two important and experienced campaigners, Yuvraj and Raina, are up for the challenge. Both Yuvraj and Raina have age on their side and the necessary experience, but they must iron out the flaws that has persisted since many years and has hampered their otherwise bright career.

Evidently, all that Yuvraj and Raina have done in order to learn to play the short ball hasn’t helped a great deal. It’s neither rocket science nor an arduous task for the opposition teams to fathom this huge chasm in the famed Indian batting order — something which the bowling coaches like David Saker (England) and Allister De Winter (Australia) or Allan Donald (South Africa) would like to exploit if they continue with their respective sides till 2015.

Yuvraj and Raina’s poor outing against Australia might have hampered their chances ahead of the South African later this year. It certainly won’t make sense to have a batsman who is vulnerable against short bowling on fast tracks, especially when there are alternatives. And then, there are cases like Dinesh Karthik, whose axing from Australia ODI series was beyond logic. It’s indeed tough to break into the Indian squad, and even tougher to extend the run. They would have to iron out their flaws faster for a longer run at the top level.

(Devarchit Varma is a reporter with CricketCountry. He can be followed on Twitter @Devarchit)