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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