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Knight in rusty armour

Unstoppable in the World Twenty20, Yuvraj Singh is now unable to scrape together even a few runs, writes Atreyo Mukhopadhyay on his dipping form.
By Atreyo Mukhopadhyay | Hindustan Times, Adelaide
UPDATED ON FEB 14, 2008 03:08 AM IST

They are going to scrap the tri-series in Australia from next year and have two bilateral series because this annual feature of cricket Down Under was getting one-sided. It's not known whether authorities are going to have a rethink or not, but the final edition of this competition is turning out to be interesting.

Australia have already been defeated once and as things stand now, with one match remaining before the completion of the second round, nothing can be taken for granted. It's impossible to predict or guess who will reach the finals, although the hosts continue to be the favourites because of their reputation.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Mahela Jayawardene said after Tuesday's match in Canberra that the world champions are not looking invincible as they used to, and India have already proved that. Both seemed satisfied with the way their teams were shaping up although for India, there is still one headache.

Dhoni's team has started batting well, but Yuvraj Singh is yet to get his act right. India's principal scorer in the shorter versions of the game has played nine innings in Australia so far including the first two Tests and the practice match before the third Test without a single substantial score. A key man in India's one-day scheme of things, this has to be disconcerting for the team.

The skipper didn't say much on this after the defeat against Sri Lanka.

"He is coming off an injury and yet to get much of match practice. He needs time." Asked the same question a day earlier, Yuvraj had said he was "feeling better" with each game. Probably displeased to hear whether the lack of runs was worrying him, he was curt. "Not batting well, that's why I'm not getting runs."

He couldn't be blamed for not being honest if he really meant what he said. After missing the first game of the tri-series, he was out trying to drive on the off in the two innings he got in Brisbane and Melbourne. For someone who plays the shot so well, it was ironical in a way that he had perished attempting it. Not much should be made of his failure in Canberra however because he hardly got any time in that game.

Dhoni was asked why Rohit Sharma was sent in at No. 4 ahead of Yuvraj and he said that the team wanted to have a left-right combination in the middle since Gautam Gambhir was the other man batting at that time.

"And I came in at No. 5 because it was time to accelerate and having batted well in the last two games, I decided to push myself up."

He did a handy job while Rohit was brilliant. With Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag getting the team off to a decent start and Gautam Gambhir too promising to deliver, there was reason for Dhoni to be optimistic about his batting resources. Yuvraj, then, remains the only concern.

It's unfair to say that this left-hander has become a weak link because he has failed in just two innings in this competition so far, excluding the match on Tuesday and it's well known what he is capable of. As Yuvraj himself said the other day that he was getting better, he definitely deserves time. Given the stage the tournament is in, time is not running out either.

With India's next game coming up here on Sunday on what is arguably the best pitch for batting in Australia, Yuvraj gets a great chance to rest, train and then come out and score some runs. Given his track record, he is expected to do that sooner rather than later. Trouble will start if he doesn't get it right soon enough, because things at times happen too quickly if you are an Indian cricketer.

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