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Man and Superman

When Yuvraj bats the way he did at Rajkot on Friday, a comparison with Richards may not be out of place. He has the same disdainful swagger, the same audacious stroke-play, writes Pradeep Magazine.

india Updated: Nov 16, 2008 00:09 IST

Men at some time are masters of their fates;
The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves, that we are underlings.
--- William Shakespeare

Watching Yuvraj Singh pulverize the English attack took one's breath away. When he unleashes the full repertoire of his strokes, you just can't help wonder why he is still not among the greats of the game. Why is he a failure in Test cricket?

Is there a limitation imposed by a loose technique which gets exposed in Tests or is there a flaw in his personality which restricts him from fulfilling his promise?

These are not easy questions to answer. The vulnerability of a batsman gets magnified when he is failing and struggling to score runs. It is said that he brings his bat down from the third man position and his exaggerated follow through makes it difficult for him to negotiate the bouncing, moving ball. When he is whacking the ball with a barrage of strokes, the same back lift and follow through become his strengths. When he hit those six sixes in the T-20 World Cup, comparisons were made with Gary Sobers!

One has not seen Sobers bat, but from what one has read and heard, Sobers could hit a ball of any length in the direction he chose without even moving his feet. He could do this to the best attacks in the world and that too so often that he ended up right there on top.

In our times the batsman who made the best of bowlers appear like novices was Vivian Richards. Richards may not have had the run-scoring, century-making record which a Lara or a Tendulkar has, but ask those who have bowled to him and they would tell you why they feared him most. I don't think there has been a more brutal destroyer of brilliant, skillful bowling than Richards. He, even on unplayable tracks, played strokes that most would not even dream of.

When Yuvraj bats the way he did at Rajkot on Friday, a comparison with Richards may not be out of place. He has the same disdainful swagger, the same audacious stroke-play.

The major difference is that while Richards can and did a Rajkot very often, in the best and worst of conditions and in both forms of the game, Yuvraj has lacked consistency and his Test failures are too galling for anyone to accord him the status reserved for the best. If one were to write his epitaph today, he would be summed up as a batsman who could destroy any attack, but in conditions favourable for batting.

What must trouble Yuvraj is that long before Dhoni arrived, he was the chosen king. He is 26 now and even the vice-captaincy has been taken away from him.

His former coach John Wright would call him the rock star of Indian cricket. He would say that if Yuvi didn’t lose focus, he could become one of the game’s greats. It is his off the field image which has often caught as much attention as his on field exploits.

The Rajkot blitzkrieg was a reminder of the volcanic talent Yuvraj possesses. Even now, it is not too late for him to identify and overcome the hurdles that limit him as a batsman who should be a bowler's nightmare in any form of the game.

First Published: Nov 15, 2008 23:57 IST