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Yuvraj feels the heat as WC looms

Apart from a whitewash, the one thing that will make India feel their Word Cup preparations are on track is a big innings from Yuvraj Singh in Friday's match against New Zealand.

cricket Updated: Dec 10, 2010 00:06 IST
Nikhilesh Bhattacharya

Apart from a whitewash, the one thing that will make India feel their Word Cup preparations are on track is a big innings from Yuvraj Singh in Friday's match against New Zealand.

Yuvraj has had a tough 12 months prior to the start of this series. In that period, he struggled in the Indian Premier League, was dropped from the one-day side for the Asia Cup in Sri Lanka and also lost his place in the Test squad. As team equations are debated for the Feb-April World Cup comes near, the hard-hitting batsman is clearly under pressure.

Although the middle-order batsman was brought back to the limited-overs side for the tri-series in Dambulla in August, he did not get to fifty in any of the four matches, against New Zealand and hosts Sri Lanka.

His 58 against Australia in Vishakhapatnam in the only completed match of the series in October was overshadowed by Virat Kohli's century. Since then, Yuvraj has had to go back to the grind of domestic cricket. Although Yuvraj's power-hitting can be a huge asset in the World Cup, he has not so far used the five-match home series against New Zealand.

He flattered to deceive against a modest New Zealand attack in the two opportunities he got to spend some time in the middle. He got out for 42 in the first one-dayer in Guwahati as India were bowled out in 49 overs. In Bangalore, he fell cheaply as India chased a target of 316.

On Thursday, India's bowling coach Eric Simons, standing in for coach Gary Kirsten who is in South Africa with the Test squad, backed Yuvraj to come good. "The other day, he played one of his favourite shots and it is just that he did not get underneath it enough," Simon said about Yuvraj's dismissal in Bangalore where he pulled one straight to a fielder at midwicket.

"He is striking the ball well in the nets. He is clearing the boundary with consummate ease when he goes for it. That shows to me that the batsman is timing the ball well and batting with confidence.

"He is moving in the field well and is shaping up well to perform."

Yuvraj has picked a few wickets with his left arm spin, but a match-turning performance with the bat is missing. However, he returns to a venue where the last time India played in December 2008, Yuvraj scored a fourth-innings 85 in a remarkable Test win against England.

No one but the New Zealanders will mind a similar innings on Friday.