The last time Yuvraj Singh's career was at a crossroads, albeit in the limited-over format, the left-hander responded with bat, ball and in the field to become 'Player of the Tournament' in India's World Cup win. Seven months later, he finds himself in a similar situation, and how he responds this time may well decide where his Test career will go from here.
Yuvraj is one of eight batsmen picked in India's squad of 15 for the first Test against the West Indies starting here on Sunday. On Friday, at the team's first practice session leading up to the game, Yuvraj came into the nets after Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman and even captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni.With the light fading, the left-hander was paired with Virat Kohli, his main competitor for the No. 6 slot.
The number 6 slot has been a headache for the selectors since Sourav Ganguly retired. No one - be it Yuvraj, S Badrinath or Suresh Raina - could make the slot his. Rohit Sharma is yet to play a Test while Cheteshwar Pujara is out injured.
Although still 29, Yuvraj has been around for more than a decade and this may well be his last chance to establish himself in Tests. The good thing for him is that if he plays, he will probably bat at No. 6, the position where he has played most of his Tests and done the best (see box).
"It has been a strange career graph for Yuvraj in Tests due to misfortune and injuries, poor form and opportunities at the wrong time," said Bengal coach and ex-India opener WV Raman. "But the fact it is now or never can actually help him perform in Tests."
In the race
There will be competition from other young batsmen looking to make a comeback or break into the team. The presence of Kohli, who turns 23 on Saturday, in the Test squad will be a constant reminder of that, as will the scores from the first round of Ranji Trophy matches.
Already Saurashtra's Ravindra Jadeja, who like Yuvraj bats left-handed and bowls left-arm spin, has cracked a triple ton, while Mumbai's Rohit Sharma, Punjab youngster Mandeep Singh and Bengal captain Manoj Tiwary have scored centuries. The selectors are keeping an eye on these batsmen too but Yuvraj can make their job easier by scoring some big runs for India.