For Yuvi, Test is the real thing | cricket | Hindustan Times
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For Yuvi, Test is the real thing

The stylish left-hander feels he can do well in the longer version as one gets time to settle down, reports Rohit Mahajan.

cricket Updated: Dec 09, 2007 11:57 IST
Rohit Mahajan

If there's indeed a zone, Yuvraj inhabited it for most of Saturday.

Ironically, the last 17 months have been trying times for Yuvraj in Tests, for he is the king in one-day cricket, the star in T20s.

But, over the last seven years, since he first displayed his extraordinary talent at the international stage, he had played just 19 Tests before Bangalore. His one-day average is substantially higher than his Test average, and that tells a tale.

In a batting order bulging with heavyweights — all-time greats, even — Yuvraj could not edge in.

<b1>On the eve of the Lord's Test earlier in the summer, Yuvraj made a despondent figure, gutted by the knowledge that despite playing the best cricket of his life, he did not have a place in the Test team, something he sought desperately.

Now, a day before the third Test, Yuvraj got in. Ironically, it was disaster for India that ushered Yuvraj in. MS Dhoni and Sachin Tendulkar had to sit out due to injuries, four changes were made to the XI, considerably debilitating India.

<b2>And India faced disaster again on Saturday when, 95 minutes into the game, Yuvraj had to walk in at 61/4. Four days of shade and rain, and Saturday's sun, had made the wicket lively; Shoaib Akhtar, when he did bowl, looked sharp and dangerous. Yasir Arafat, making his debut, was innocuous in appearance but deadly in results. India's indiscretion and some good bowling had blown the top half away.

And Yuvraj was feeling the pressure, created by the situation, by the demons in his mind, his fear of failure in Tests.

That changed quickly — the 12th ball he faced, from Arafat, he smashed to the square-leg boundary with a powerful flick of wrists. That energised the 25-year-old Punjab left-hander, gave him courage.

“Test cricket does give me the shivers… I've never been a confident starter in Tests because I haven't played much Test cricket,” Yuvraj said later.

And when did the shivers stop?

“When I hit my first boundary,” Yuvraj said. “The ball was doing a bit then, I decided to see out that spell. My first aim was a 50-run stand with Sourav.”

They did that with some luck — Yuvraj got dropped once and escaped getting run-out another time. Then the resistance began: Ganguly led, Yuvraj followed. Resistance turned into upheaval, into aggression. And Yuvraj was the real aggressor.

It was an interesting union in the middle — Ganguly, the preceptor of the years past, and Yuvraj, then his protégé, now his own man, a batsman for the ages.

Yuvraj said he loved it.

“I enjoyed batting with Sourav because he's also a very attacking player,” he said. “He has supported me a lot in the past, it was good to have that stand with him. And he batted really well.”

Yuvraj himself has been batting rather well, in ODIs and T20s. His reputation as a finisher in one-dayers is beyond debate, his power-hitting in T20s has few equals.

The lack of Tests, thus, has been galling.

“It feels bad to sit out, but we have so many great players in the middle order… But only I am to blame. I had a very bad Test series in the West Indies.

“But I stayed motivated, worked hard on my game, and was determined to take my chance when it came," Yuvraj added, his face rather impassive, perhaps due to the enormity of physical effort and a sense achievement. And has his innings altered anything in his mind? “I always knew that I could do well in Tests," he said. "You have time to settle down… To me, Test cricket is the main thing." Yuvraj said he's not worried whether he gets a Test in Australia — indeed, he should have no worry.

Yuvraj, with his third Test ton, the best to date, has proved he belongs in Tests, and that is likely to alter the shape of the team to Australia.