When Yuvraj Singh missed Thursday’s first game of the Challenger Trophy against Delhi due to back spasm, there were a few eyebrows raised over his fitness, and whether he was fit enough to get into the team.
However, he came out in the evening following that game for a hit and seemed absolutely fine. In hindsight, that niggle held him in good stead as playing three games in four days would have been just too tough for a man who has recovered from a serious ailment. Eventually, he got to play two games with a break in between and cashed in quite handsomely, with a bit of class and smartness.
Having hammered 84 against a weak India Red bowling, hitting sixes off quite a few loose deliveries sent by the bowlers, he brought himself on to bowl ahead of regular pacer Ankit Rajpoot and the impressive Iresh Saxena, who also bowls left-arm spin. Yuvraj didn’t have much success with the ball and his only wicket came because of a pathetic shot by Yusuf Pathan. However, quite importantly, he showed the two selectors present, including chairman Sandeep Patil, that he was fit to do the all-round duty.
When the final against Delhi came, everyone knew who he was competing against. In an India team that has impressive youngsters, who have fresh legs and performances to back them, there couldn’t be many older men, and especially only one of either Virender Sehwag or Yuvraj Singh.
Yuvraj didn’t have a particularly big score in the final but the way he played his shots was enough to push him through. And he didn’t come into bowl too early this time around.
It became pretty clear he would get through after Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir and even young Unmukt Chand fell cheaply with India Blue, led by Yuvraj, going on to win the title comfortably.
Yuvraj, discarded after the ODI against England in Dharamsala in January, had worked on his fitness in France after being omitted for the Champions Trophy. He had arrived at the Challenges after useful runs against West Indies A. In all, the 15-member squad for the Twenty20 and first three one-day matches, has four changes - out-of-form opener Murali Vijay, ‘keeper Dinesh Karthik, the erratic Umesh Yadav and the injured Irfan Pathan went out. Young left-arm paceman Jaydev Unadkat came in place of Yadav and Ambati Rayudu was included in Karthik’s spot.