He has been one of the most successful limited-overs cricketers in India. He played a crucial role during India’s victories in the inaugural ICC World T20 2007 and ICC Cricket World Cup 2011. It is fair to say that Yuvraj Singh is a household name when cricket comes to picture in India. The entire country loves him, regardless of his results. However, one must not forget that no player is above the game. If a player fails to do his assigned job well, it is always a great idea to try the other names in the line. The scores of 14, 4, 22, 23* and 7 are surely not acceptable where a batsman as talented and senior like Yuvraj is concerned.
After a full year of hard-fought cricket, Team India has always begun a new season by touring lower-ranked countries like West Indies and Zimbabwe. These are the tours where the selectors give new faces a chance on the elite international level. This time around, after India’s loss in the ICC Champions Trophy 2017 final, a full-fledged Indian team was picked to tour to the West Indies for the limited-overs series.
But, it is baffling when a young Rishabh Pant, despite being in the ODI squad has not been given a chance so far in the ODI series against the Windies. He is surely a better, fitter and dependable prospect ahead of the 2019 World Cup when compared to Yuvraj. If the Indian management had well thought about the World Cup, that is just two years ago, the ongoing West Indies tour was an apt opportunity for players like Pant to get a taste of the higher level.
The good old, Yuvi…
There is no doubt that Yuvraj has been a match-winner for Team India ever since his debut in 2000. He has been one of the best strikers of the ball among the other Men in Blue. During his peak time, he was counted among the quickest runners between the wickets. His added bowling skills only strengthened his spot in the side. Yuvraj’s flying sensational catches were only a feast to one’s eye. India being one of the best fielding sides, he was among the fielders who never failed to stop the important singles.
No other bowler other than Stuart Broad knows how ruthless Yuvraj can get at his best. The stylist all-rounder had smashed Broad for six maximums in six consecutive deliveries in a group match of World T20 2007. His memorable run came four years later during the 2011 World Cup which was co-hosted by India along with Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. India had lifted the trophy after 28 years and had become the first team to do so on the home soil. Player of the Match, Yuvraj Singh, had become India’s hero. Just when things had been going perfectly for Yuvraj, he was faced with the biggest battle of his career – he was diagnosed with cancer.
India, it is time to move on…
Ever since the Yuvraj has made a comeback after recovering from the disease, the southpaw has struggled to return to his previous best. Post-cancer, his curve has gone down more often, not in favour of the batsman. From being a hero in 2011 World Cup, Yuvraj ended up being the “villain” in the final of World T20 2014 for his 21-ball 11. His slow innings towards the end restricted India only at 130 in 20 overs and they lost the final, eventually, to Sri Lanka by six wickets.
Yuvraj was dropped from the Indian side after the 2014 final and maybe it seemed harsh for a player who had inspired the World Cup win at home in 2011. He was away from international cricket for a year. In 2015, he made full use of Vijay Hazare, the List A format in the Indian domestic circuit and ended as Punjab’s second highest run-scorer and fifth, overall. He averaged 69, having scored 346 runs in six matches at a strike-rate of 100.28. A successful run in Vijay Hazare helped him return to the Indian camp only for the shortest format. He played in the T20I series in Australia before playing the World T20 2016.
He had injured his ankle during India’s Super 10 match against Australia and was ruled out of the semi-final against West Indies, which India lost. An injury to a player who had been away for a long time should have rung bells for the selectors that the age-factor had begun to hit the vintage Yuvraj.
The last time Yuvraj appeared in the blue jersey in 2016 was during the World T20 in March. After a gap of a year, he was a surprise pick for the one-day series against England. His career-best score of 150 helped him etch a place in the ICC Champions Trophy 2017 squad. In the ICC event, he scored a match-winning fifty against Pakistan before struggling to bat against Sri Lanka and Pakistan in the final. Let along batting, this Yuvraj on the field was not even close to the one who used to entertain the viewers with his fielding full of ‘Matrix and Gymnastics’ moves. Poor fielding and Yuvraj absolutely never went hand in hand in the past. For a vivid follower of the game, the feeling of watching Yuvraj being laid back on the field is nothing but sad.
At an age of 35, you cannot expect Yuvraj to throw himself on the field. He can barely run any fast on the field these days. He is around the same age as MS Dhoni. But, there is one important feature that gives Dhoni an edge – his fitness. Even at this age, he is among the quicker runners on the field and that will assist him in keep going for some more time.
With the 2019 World Cup just two years away, Indian skipper Virat Kohli has to start building his team. Everybody is aware of the massive respect Virat has for Yuvraj. “Self-confidence is always there when you have the backing of the team and captain. I think Virat has showed a lot of trust in me and it was very important for me that people in the dressing room trust me,” Yuvraj said after he was recalled in the ODI side.
In the two ODIs against the West Indies, where Yuvraj was picked ahead of Rishabh Pant, India’s beloved Yuvraj managed scores of only 14 and 4. He was neither effective with the ball or had made any difference with the bat. It is time for Virat and Indian team to accept the harsh fact and let go of Yuvraj. There are several deserving candidates waiting on the bench for an opportunity to play for India. Ever since Yuvraj had returned to the side, Suresh Raina has been ignored for all the series. Although Raina has had a poor string of scores in the past, which led to his axing, surely deserves another chance; especially when a player is not being able to contribute in any department.
Then there is wicketkeeper-batsman Dinesh Karthik in line. Even though he was in the Champions Trophy squad, he was not given a single game. When Yuvraj could bag a comeback by doing well in the domestic circuit, the rules should not change in the case of Dinesh Karthik, who has been recalled because he had scored heavily in the Vijay Hazare and Deodhar Trophy.
The likes of Manish Pandey and KL Rahul need no introduction. They have been out due to their respective injuries. Now that they have recovered, they are the more deserving players than the current Yuvraj Singh.
Considering the amount of contribution Yuvraj has made in the Indian team, he does deserve a better farewell. However, it is unfair if an individual is given more importance at the stake of the team and its future. If the player is unable to make a difference at all in the team, letting go is the best idea. More than the heroics, people tend to remember what a player did during his final days in the game. If the cricketer ends with poor performances, that is tend to overshadow all his golden days in the national team.
A few more scores in single digits might ruin all Yuvraj’s World Cup heroics. And a champion like him, certainly, does not deserve a harsh treatment like this. It is time for Yuvraj Singh to part ways from the Indian team and make way for a young man fill in his shoes. It is time.