Yuvraj Singh and Ashish Nehra have been in focus lately. Their selection to the India side for the World Twenty20 and getting picked in the auctions of the Indian Premier League (IPL) has got their stock up.
Their recent form, though, hasn’t matched up to the talk surrounding them.
In the three-match T20 series in Australia, the duo came up with average performances. While Nehra picked two wickets in three games, Yuvraj did not get to bat in two of the three games he played. In the third and final T20, he struggled to get going when the chase got tight, but came good in the final over to take India home.
As they arrive for the first of the three T20 matches against Sri Lanka, it will be the ideal platform for them to prove their mettle with the Asia Cup and WT20 to follow.
Incidentally, it was here that the duo last played together. Yuvraj led the Pune Warriors side in the IPL, which also included Nehra.
Yuvraj, 34, who battled cancer soon after helping India to the World Cup title in 2011, returned to the fold ahead of the Australia series. Before that, the last game he played for India was the World T20 final loss to Sri Lanka in April 2014. Nehra’s absence has been longer.
Yuvraj’s return was on the back of the Vijay Hazare Trophy, which saw him score 341 runs in five innings at an average of over 80. Nehra, 36, had shown tremendous form in the last IPL where he picked 22 wickets, including five three-wicket hauls.
The selection committee has changed the makeup of the T20 outfit this season, laying emphasis on experienced players. Along with Yuvraj and Nehra, another senior pro Harbhajan Singh, 35, has been included in the side.
Yuvraj and Harbhajan were part of the India team that won the inaugural World T20 in 2007, but a lot has changed since then. Now retired, seniors like Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid opted out of the 20-over format. Twelve years down, the thinking of the selectors is different with the growing popularity of the format and fans’ demand for silverware.
India go into the World T20 with a well-balanced side that includes experienced hands like Yuvraj, Nehra and Harbhajan, and also greenhorns like Pawan Negi and Hardik Pandya.
According to Lalchand Rajput, who was part of the coaching staff when India won the World T20 in 2007, senior pros are essential as they will guide the youngsters and set an example.
“We have seen many young players being included in the side. In such a scenario, it was imperative to have seniors to complement them and show them the way,” said Rajput.
“Players like Yuvraj can hold the innings together. His partnership with Dhoni can have a soothing effect on the dressing room. Nehra too has proved that he can utilise the four overs well,” he added.
“The series against Sri Lanka will be of great importance for the seniors to sharpen their game before the big tournament begins.”