Being in the forefront extracts a price. It means the scrutiny is much more. Yuvraj Singh and Dinesh Karthik wouldn’t want it at the moment but there would be extra attention on these two players in the next two months when they don their club colours in the Indian Premier League.
The two got the highest bids in the auction, and will naturally be desperate to prove their worth. It doesn’t help that they are coming off a poor outing in their national colours. Ironically, both faced a crisis of confidence at the same venue, the low and slow wickets of Bangladesh, though in different formats -- Karthik didn’t do well in the Asia Cup and Yuvraj flopped at the World T20.
Royal Challengers Bangalore had bagged Yuvraj for Rs 14 crore while Delhi Daredevils paid Rs 12.5 crore for Karthik. Till now, it was just a case of runs, wickets and catches. In the IPL, the rupees will always be divided by runs and wickets to weigh their value.
The pressure of expectations can be suffocating. Finding ways to deal with it will be a challenge. Dinesh Karthik has worked his guts out to get in peak physical shape, and having just returned from the three-week long tournament in Bangladesh, it will be interesting to see how Yuvraj goes about slaying his self-doubts.
Before joining the Delhi team camp, Karthik spent two days training hard with former India keeper Sameer Dighe at the Cricket Club of India. The Asia Cup for Karthik was an excellent opportunity spurned, having got a break only because MS Dhoni was injured. In the two crucial games India lost, against Pakistan and Sri Lanka, Karthik had two big misses which cost the team dearly. After he missed a stumping chance off Kumar Sangakkara, when on 30, the batsman took his team home with a knock of 103. Against Pakistan, he fell to a pre-meditated sweep at a crucial juncture after getting his eye in with 23 runs.
The intensity seen in his workout was of a player wanting to prove a point. Under scorching sun, he had two gruelling sessions with Dighe with an hour long pool session thrown in between.
He’s among the fittest on the Indian circuit, but for all his athleticism is not consistent with his glovework. The concentration level seems to let him down. It could be about his temperament as he’s quite an excitable character, always bubbling with energy; ‘keeping requires the patience of a hunter who lies in wait all day long, waiting for the right moment to go for his kill.
“The focus of the training was T20 skills, ‘keeping as well as batting. One of the areas we focused on was footwork and head position while gathering the ball. He practiced a lot standing up to pace bowlers, and in batting, playing different strokes to the same good length ball. He is an avid learner,” said Dighe.
The situation is tougher for Yuvraj, as he misfired at the World Cup final. And his painstaking 11 off 21 balls will be fresh in memory with just a week to go for the start of the IPL. In his talk-show in Cricinfo, former India batsman Sanjay Manjrekar analysed it. “He’s going through a phase (where) he has self-doubt. When you are in this kind of situation, the batsman wants to (somehow) make amends… When you look at the scoreboard and see that you have done a lot of damage to the team, suddenly the strength in your forearms vanishes and the shots don’t come,” Manjrekar said in his show.
The toughest part of T20 cricket is that there’s no time for a comeback. It will be the same in the IPL. The only advantage will be that Yuvraj will have more matches to prove himself.