It is hard to think of him that way, but Yuvraj Singh is now one of the senior members of this ODI outfit. Leaving alone Sachin Tendulkar, who dwarfs anyone in world cricket for match play experience, Yuvraj is among the most capped players in the 50-overs version in this team. After an early phase in his career when he struggled for consistency and was in and out of the team, the Punjab left-hander has cemented his place. Now, he is reaping the rewards of playing, as a relative junior.
<b1>The partnership between Tendulkar and Yuvraj in the third ODI forced the momentum in India’s favour and fans would have been reminded of how the two pulled off a remarkable chase against England in the Chennai Test last year. When you see the two batting together you realise what a long way this ODI team has come in the recent past.
Tendulkar, who was a blaster of attacks, has matured into something less flamboyant but more valuable. He is the rock of experience and cricketing wisdom.
In Yuvraj’s case, talent has never been in doubt. Equally, he has never been short on ambition or hunger. But it just seemed that he lacked the mental poise that was needed to succeed consistently at the highest level.
In the two occasions when Tendulkar and Yuvraj have shared big stands, Indian cricket looked in the pink of health. The past traditional, dependable batsmanship and the future — aggressive, powerful hitting — came together to make the present that much more palatable. When the two bat together, the toughest question in Indian cricket — who after Tendulkar, is momentarily silenced.
It is not a coincidence that Yuvraj has been the Man-of-the -Series in India’s last two ODI assignments, a 5-0 blanking out of England followed by a pride-salvaging ODI series triumph in Sri Lanka. Yuvraj is perhaps not as fit today as he was five years ago, with injuries to the shoulder and knees taking their toll, but the awareness with which he bats and the ability to read a situation quickly has made him a consistent match-winner, or “game breaker” as Gary Kirsten likes to put it.
One-day cricket has been Yuvraj’s stronghold for years now, with critics only questioning his ability to tackle the moving ball in Test. In T20 cricket, Yuvraj’s ability to hit even good balls out of the park — literally, and not just clear the ropes — has made him a high impact player.
As this series unfolds, and the ODIs give way to the Tests, the most critical phase of Yuvraj’s career begins. Can he build on the gains from the Chennai Test was and forge a proper Test career for himself?
Only Yuvraj and his broad blade can answer that.