While Virat Kohli becoming captain hasn’t come as a surprise, the 35-year-old Yuvraj Singh’s return, especially to the ODI squad, has created a flutter.
The left-hander was the toast of the nation along with captain MS Dhoni as India lifted the 2011 World Cup, and was declared the Player of the Tournament. What made Yuvraj’s contribution vital was his performance with bat and ball. He scored over 300 runs and took 15 wickets, collecting four Man-of-the-Match awards en route the title. It underlined his importance to the team as a utility player.
But over the next few months, the magic waned following serious illness and since that World Cup, his performance in ODIs nosedived. Yuvraj made just two fifties in 19 ODIs. Worse, he collected just two wickets in that period. In fact, he didn’t bowl in the last seven ODIs he played.
With age catching up and his lack of fitness getting exposed, he seemed done and dusted.
A return to the T20I squad too was questioned as he made a hash of things when the need of the hour was urgency in the final of the 2014 World T20 final against Sri Lanka. He played in the World T20 last year too without creating an impression.
The only time he made headlines in recent times was during his marriage to actor-model Hazel Keech in November-December.
The selectors say they have taken his two big knocks in Ranji Trophy into account. Both came in October – 260 against Baroda and 177 against Madhya Pradesh.
Chief selector MSK Prasad said, “We should appreciate how Yuvraj has played in the domestic circuit. He did extremely well.”
They may also have been moved by his record against England --- 1313 runs at an average of 48.
The upcoming ODI series is considered more as a warm-up to the Champions Trophy that will be held in England in the middle of the year. There are already young aggressive batsmen as options. Former skipper Dhoni always stressed the importance of fit and fast legs. The new limited-overs skipper Virat Kohli too is among the fittest cricketers, so Yuvraj’s inclusion comes as a surprise especially with not much to show in recent international cricket.
“I think the selectors have included him because of his experience apart from those knocks in domestic cricket. They feel his experience will probably help the team,” said Madan Lal, former India cricketer and 1983 World Cup winner and coach.
Former cricketer and coach Anshuman Gaekwad said, “It is a well-balanced side. I am glad they are not writing off players. I think the selectors are right in keeping seniors like Yuvraj and Ashish Nehra, because India will go to England in defence of the Champions Trophy and they need experience there. As it is India are struggling with injuries to Rohit Sharma among others.”