Is this the End of Yuvraj Singh?

This article needed special guts, for it’s about an all-conquering Champion player who may not deserve such criticism but today is only a pale shadow his own former self, for it’s about a man who a whole nation is proud of, for it’s about a man who hurts the most when he’s not scoring runs!

Those who watched yesterday’s match, will provide a testimony of a player who’s terribly short on confidence. He just hasn’t looked like himself. The under confident footwork, the ebbing demeanor, that sinking chin, and eyes that just won’t match the levels with any other player in the team. He isn’t the same man who won MS Dhoni the most coveted World Cup in 2011. He isn’t the same roaring Yuvraj Singh.

He was a different man then, who’d match the best in the business any time of the day and between any dream of the night as well. And yet have enough to come out the next day and take on the next best. He was in a class of his own then. His feet moved ever so elegantly, he saw the balls earlier, and hence, read the lines better giving the bowlers an absolute nightmare. The nudges, the pulls, the hooks, the sweeps, the slog-sweeps, the cover-drives – lofted and otherwise, the square cuts, he was an absolute Indian treat to watch. The sore of the eye to the world and the twinkle of the eyes for India. He was untouchable – a terrific athletic and safe fielder, a fast runner – both on the field and between the wickets, and a man of organization. In all of the World Cup 2011, he fed off the confidence that he got from bowling his slow left armers which reflected in his batting too. Ask him now and he may himself say that those were the best days of his cricketing career.

Between then and now though, he’s had a rough ride. Forging through a near terminal illness, inspiring many a billions with his courage on the way, he came back on the scene with a bang, with a quick-fire 70 odd, and man, wasn’t Indian public and media gaga over his return. But since then, bowlers have figured him out, for he is still unsure about himself. For some reason, he doesn’t seem to bend down enough when playing his drives and his stride is shorter and legs stiffer. He isn’t playing straight enough. He’s trying to move but the feet take him to places inside the crease, he really doesn’t want to be.

And consequently, he now faces issues with fast bowlers, both seamers and swingers. He pokes at anything going away from him (very Gautam Gambhir style). I guess that’s what lack of form brings to you – an inherent urge to get off the strike so you spend more time on the crease. He doesn’t read the balls that come in and hence, sits like a duck being shot at. He is unsure about off-spinners bowling to him, for they have their own variations to bamboozle him with. It seems he has never played the doosra from any off-spinner, when all the while during his playing days, he had one of the best exponents of bowling doosra in his own team, bowling at him in the nets – Harbhajan Singh (and later Ravichandran Ashwin as well). A world-class batsman like him is facing issues differentiating between the balls that skid on and the ones that leave him. He isn’t watching the balls closely enough. The only bowlers he seems contented playing, are genuine leg-spinners who don’t have their own doosra, for that’ll take the balls away from him too. He’s hitting them for sixes aplomb!

His bowling too is coming apart, for the turn and guile isn’t visible and the man just lacks confidence to even arrive at the crease with a ball in his hand. The Yuvraj Singh of old who was once the go to bowler for MS Dhoni in crunch situations and who invariably broke critical partnerships, is now at best a part timer and much preferred is Suresh Raina.

Now some may say that he’s lacking opportunities and a long rope that MS Dhoni so often provides to players with promise, ones like Rohit Sharma. But I argue this point with the expectation that Yuvraj Singh carries with him every time he walks out to bat. Rohit Sharma is no Yuvraj Singh and may never even come close to achieving what Yuvraj has. But the Indian public looks at Yuvraj the same way they used to when he hit Stuart Broad for those 6 consecutive sixes in an over – the ever flamboyant batsman, who demolished bowling attacks at will and was once invincible. Players like Rohit Sharma have a lot of years still to go under their bellies but not Yuvi. He has to make the lost time count, for he owes it to his country and I certainly believe he knows it too.

But how do performances like the one yesterday help him get a go ahead from the selectors and the captain himself? Everyone’s looking at the World Cup in 2015 and although ICC T20 World Cup isn’t of the same the magnitude as the 50 over version, it certainly gives us a peek into what Yuvraj Singh is going through. It’s not just the lean patch that most batsmen go through a few times in their cricketing careers, it’s a total lack of belief in hitting the same balls that he so disdainfully dispatched out of stadiums in his hay days. No IPL style batting is going to help him earn his place in the national side. He has to come through stronger but till then, Indian side needs a stronger middle order that isn’t scared of facing the short pitched bombs that they’ll be pampered with, in Australia and New Zealand.

So who’d serve as his replacement, Cheteshwar Pujara? Ajinkya Rahane? With Suresh Raina himself now losing his place in the 50 over side, the Indian middle order looks the weakest ever. Whoever his replacements are, the best basis they must be selected on, is their ability to play the short pitched bowling else India look sure to not make it through, to even the second stage of the tournament.

Dhoni has a lot of issues at hand and a under confident Yuvraj Singh only makes the matters worse. How Yuvraj Singh goes on and fights his battles over the next six month is what will grab everyone’s eyeballs, for India needs him badly and knowing that tournaments like IPL will not serve him well, is what makes the onward journey even tougher for Yuvraj who clearly doesn’t have many opportunities at his disposal now, to impress the selectors and the ever believing Captain!

Go on Yuvi, we are praying for you to come back stronger!

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India Loses – Again and why!

The third ODI between India and Australia brought with it the memories of the same old frail days when Sachin and Saurav under their captaincy struggled to conjure up the fifth bowler. They were blessed with a few better ones at that then – Kumble, Srinath, Venkatesh Prasad and later an in-form Harbhajan Singh.

Yesterday I could get a glimpse about why Dhoni has to remain so pro-active on the field with his bowling changes. Let me admit it first by the way – he is one of the best captains to have led India ever, simply for perfectly utilizing his under-performing resources and yet ending up on the winning side. Many a times, it has been sheer luck that has favored him but like yesterday, when luck totally deserted him, so did his small little brain as was pointed out by Shashi Tharoor in his tweet right after India lost the match – “Questions for MSD: Why was Kohli given an over when regular bowlers had enough2spare? Why Ishant¬ Vinay for 48th over when VK had 2 left?”.

While it’s totally immaterial to tell you now, how I kept hopping in my home yelling the same thing over and over, it needs to be signified amongst all of this that how an under-performing Ashwiin becomes a liability in the Indian bowling line-up. He needs to be given a long break to get this one simple fact correct in his head – that he is an off-spinner first and then anything else. Looking good while batting will not make up for the fact that it was Dhoni’s lost confidence in him that he had to wait for half of the Australian innings to get wrapped up before the ball was thrown at him. I have no clue what keeps going inside his head as was pointed out by Gavaskar and Sivaramakrishnan during their commentary stint in one of Ashwin’s over. Six balls were bowled – and all of them were different. One of them was scathed for a boundary too. What’s worth pointing out is how his stock delivery, the off-break never goes for more than a run or two while all his stop-go motions let the crowd revel in the glory of impending sixes to come. He never got to complete his quota of his 10 overs because Dhoni knew he couldn’t be made to. Dhoni also inside his head knew that this target was never safe for he would have known what Faulkner could do with the bat. Ashwins (dis)array of deliveries almost lands Dhoni in soup with his field placements too. And while Dhoni would keep his CSK mate motivated right through his bowling, all that it seems to accomplish is give him freedom to throw bullshit at right handed batsman (that most of the Australian batsmen are) who are happy to cart him for sixes of mind-boggling deflating lengths.

Another problem that Dhoni is facing is under-utilization of Yuvraj. He can’t be made to look like a fool for Dhoni has himself conceded that the least pressure will be applied on Yuvraj as it’s his comeback series. Yet I don’t see any reason for Yuvraj why he can’t take the onus upon himself and not get out the same way in 2 matches out of three. Why do you have to jump in your crease while playing a ball that is short enough only to come to your chest in your normal stance. Isn’t that a ball worth leaving? Hasn’t Yuvraj been a good player of short deliveries? Since when did he start getting bogged down by the likes of Mitchell Johnsons and their short pitched barrage of bowling?

Another problem that Dhoni has called upon himself is giving Raina a stationary post at number 4. Why? Raina is only good enough to play old balls when they don’t jump to his chest else he loses his shape playing the short deliveries. It was a very good point raised by Gavaskar again yesterday that he should be playing short deliveries in front of his right shoulder and not the left one. That way he would have a better chance to dab a ball down to leg side than having to fend at them. My advice to him would be the same as Haydens – You have to decide in your career whether you want to play the short ball. If you decide not to, always leave them. It’s a simple enough decision. Only one bouncer is allowed in an over and you can play the other five balls to their merit.

Still keeping up with the issue of batting at number 4, I think it needs a more solid batsman than Yuvraj or Raina. They are both number 5 batsmen who can come in later in the innings and pavé way for Dhoni to cart the opposition bowling for sixes while staying with him all along. Both these batsmen have terrible weaknesses in their batting when they are new at the crease and these shortfalls will only make them look foolish on pace friendly Australian wickets. Mold someone like Pujara or Rahane for that place to take on more responsibility and play sensibly at number 4 to stabilize the ship when its sinking or make headway for hitters when the winds are sailing for you. They are not supposed to hit out.

While there will always be points to ponder for Dhoni about his batting, it’s his bowling department that needs a serious rethinking. Him and Joe Dawes have to sit down and see bowlers for the future. Bhuvaneshwar Kumar has kept him in good stead in non-swinging conditions by not leaking runs on batting friendly tracks but Vinay Kumar totally gives away all that he does in his initial overs by bowling short on slow Indian pitches in the death overs. By doing that he simply sets up the ball to be hit anywhere in the park and any good enough batsman from even Bangladesh would do that – leave alone pace loving Australians who have bred on short pitched bowling. Ishant Sharma has to go. He’s simply not a capable enough bowler to spearhead any bowling attack in this world. Zaheer Khan should be brought back along with Umesh Yadav. A team can only play 1 swing bowler in a team which plays majority of its cricket in non-swinging conditions. Jaidev Unadkat should be given sparring games to never let him forget the taste of international cricket.

A lot has to be learnt from yesterdays defeat and Dhoni would be ill-advised to keep up his adamant stand at playing certain players in the team. Because they simply aren’t good enough to hold their places in the Indian team. Dhoni also has to understand that whatever went right for him yesterday may not persist in the future like Virats belligerent form and himself and Jadejas miserly bowling. Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma have to make sure that they keep providing starts on a regular basis, for this team doesn’t need another case of Sehwag – a bull who could never be controlled and who could never control himself.

Come On boys. This Australian team is easily beatable. Don’t let this series get away from hands at the price of unnecessary persistence with rubbish players.

P.S. – Sourav Ganguly – please stop calling SHIKHAR Dhawan as SHEKHAR Dhawan. You sound moron.

World T20 cricket: Darren Sammy wants West Indies legacy

BBC Sport – World T20 cricket: Darren Sammy wants West Indies legacy.

He surely did create a legacy for the world yesterday. Windies were the favorites entering into the tournament and they certainly lived up to the expectation. One thing about T20 cricket is, it’s the fearlessness that defines even before the match has started, the will to survive and win a contest. The legacy of fearlessness was for sure laid down by the Indians under the newly appointed captain Dhoni in T20 World Cup 2007 when the entire world saw how Dhoni’s own enthusiasm and youth rubbed on every player in the team. The same was displayed by Windies yesterday under Darren Sammy.  The enthusiasm and the will to enjoy every moment of their cricket defined even before the match had started, that no matter what happened yesterday, Windies were gonna give the Lankans a hard fight for their money. Chris Gayle as expected spoke too much and supported a little, same as Dwayne Bravo but the man who did all the talking was Marlon Samuels, although he did it with the only thing he could have spoken with – his willow! Remaining unperturbed right through the match, he showed the world that his career will only prosper from here on in after the struggles he has gone through. Calm, cool, collected he chose to be wily yesterday, scoring slowly at start and then blasting 2 overs for more than 20 with shots that can only be described in a single word – clean. The bowling saw the Windies dropping hooks on every scoring opportunity that Lankans had and at sometime Lankans had to give and they did. They self-destructed, imploded under the eye of supreme over-confidence. The shots – loose, footwork – poor, the captain himself never paved way for a run chase even though he was one of the high scorers in the Lankan innings. His own shots were very dangerous to be  precise. Sweeping from such precariously low angles was always gonna land him in trouble. The sun is shining for Windies right now and may this give the direction and the impetus that they, their cricket and the world cricket so desperately needs.

14 months of failure: A new low in Indian Cricket?

 

14 months of failure: A new low in Indian Cricket? | News | NDTVSports.com.

How many of us really believe right now that Dhoni should quit T20 captaincy? He puts a lot of pressure on himself by trying to do what no man has ever accomplished i.e. satiate an Indian cricket fan almost single-handedly. Leaving the tests apart as the test team thoroughly lacked power due to non-performance by key men in batting but T20? This is supposed to be Dhoni’s forte and as results have started to show, all of the pressure is taking it’s toll on him. He had all the resources he wanted for this T20 World Cup but still couldn’t reach the semi-finals. Why? Unclear thinking. Pakistan in their match against Australia had dished out 17 overs of spin against a hapless batting unit. Clue enough? Fast bowlers were easy to dispatch on that pitch and hence, Australia were left stifled. But India, they went in with a single specialist spinner with other two left on the bench to rot. 3 fast bowlers and the decision to bowl Rohit Sharma never made any sense. Rohit Sharma for Christs sakes!!! Ridiculous!!! What was Dhoni trynna do? Shouldn’t he have gone for the kill by bringing in 3 spinners and leaving Balaji or a shambolic Zaheer out? They knew the target even before the toss happened? The mistakes were absolutely unpardonable and Dhoni should be the scape-goat this time