Yuvraj Singh during practice session ahead of T20 cricket match between India and New Zealand in Visakhapatnam. HT Photo/Ashok Nath Dey
In his first session with the India team, at nets in Visakhapatnam on Friday, the powerful hitter in Yuvraj Singh was on the money. However, the athletic fielder and the bowler in him remained largely untested.
Ahead of the World Cup, India's best T20 player has been struggling for some match practice. With just one T20I against New Zealand left on Friday and that too threatened by rain after the Vizag game was washed out, there may not be enough time to test Yuvraj before the team leaves for Sri Lanka.
"I haven't seen Yuvi. It depends on the selectors, physios and captain, especially how they've seen him look on the ground. But one thing is for sure, match practice is needed. I remember, even though I'd scored a hundred in the game I broke my nose, I had to play a Ranji game to prove my fitness," says former India all-rounder Manoj Prabhakar.
Madan Lal agrees, but feels that the selectors, team management and Yuvi himself must be aware of his progress.
The concern cropped up when Yuvi started getting visibly tired during a warm-up football match on Friday. Prabhakar, however, feels Yuvraj is the champion of the shortest format, so he'll pull it off. "Had it been a five-day game, or even an ODI, he would have definitely needed match-practice."
Those who have seen him at the National Cricket Academy say that he is hitting the ball hard. But they are unsure about his bowling and fielding.
The India batting line-up is strong and full of big-hitters; Yuvraj adds explosiveness to it. They also have decent specialist bowlers.
But as former spinner Maninder Singh had told HT, the team management has not been able to identify who are the men they need for T20. "We are still going with the classical formula of batsmen, keeper-batsman, spinners and pacemen."
In short, India lack all-rounders. In a way, Yuvraj's ability to bowl key overs in T20 gave some balance to the side. Unfortunately, with not much bowling behind him, he will play more as a batsman. The onus will then rest on Irfan Pathan, and to some extent Harbhajan Singh, considering that his batting has improved.
Prabhakar agrees India is definitely short on all-rounders. "You can't term these guys (Raina, Sehwag, Rohit or Yuvraj) all-rounders. An all-rounder should basically be a bowler who can bat well, like Kapil Dev, Madan Lal, Roger Binny and Prabhakar. Irfan was becoming one but somehow he couldn't develop much as a bowler. It depends on the skipper and management who and how to groom an all-rounder."
Madan Lal agrees. "An all-rounder is one who can be expected to win matches with the ball. None of these players can be expected to do so."
Lending a helping hand | The bowling machines