Why Yuvi will be important for India
India will bank a lot on Yuvraj's experience when they take on England in the seven-match ODI series, writes Atul Sondhi.
Yuvraj was one of the heroes of the England tour in 2002, when along with Kaif, he powered India to victory in the NatWest final.
Their heroics resulted in one of the most memorable moment of India's cricketing history - skipper Sourav Ganguly taking off his shirt and waving it at the cricket's holiest shrine - the Lord's.
Today, Yuvraj no longer has Kaif for company, and must be feeling rusty after waiting for about a month-and-a-half for real action, but India will bank a lot on his experience and the ability to finish a game when they take on England in the seven-match ODI series.
Overall, Yuvraj has excelled at all the positions he's batted on from time to time, except as opener where he averages just nine from two innings. It shows the sheer quality of the man that from number three to six, wherever this talented southpaw has played, he has gone to pile up runs.
Yuvraj at Various Positions in ODIs
(At least five innings or hundred runs)
It is somewhat tragic that such a talented batsman has been reduced to being an ODI specialist as he failed to really capitalise on the limited Test opportunities he got in a team full of some all-time greats.
However, despite some setbacks, Yuvraj remains one of the top batsmen in ODIs, whose willow will decide if India do get to grab the honours in the seven-match series.
Against England in England, Yuvraj has been a top draw, with seven matches accounting for as many as 215 runs at an average of 43. As he showed in the Futures Cup against South Africa, the area of impact on his willow is becoming bigger and better and England might suffer again over the next three weeks.
With Sourav, Sachin and Dravid expected to take the first three places, Yuvraj might need to come at the fall of the second wicket, where he has not performed as well as say at number three, five and six.
So it may not be a bad idea to send Karthik ahead of him and let Yuvraj play the role of a finisher, a task he did so beautifully in India's golden ODI period in recent times, when they thrashed Sri Lanka 6-1, drew with SA 2-2, humbled Pakistan 4-1 and mauled England 5-1.
In fact, he got three consecutive Man-of-the-Series awards before the West Indies tour in 2005-06 -- indeed his golden season.
Yuvraj in 2005-06 season
(At least three innings in a series)
Though subsequently, Yuvraj has not been able to perform as well as he would have liked, his average continues to be respectable in most series that he has played, including the World Cup where his three matches fetched him 136 runs at an average of 45.33.
Though he could not achieve what he would have liked most - wins for India. However, his recent unbeaten knocks of 61 and 49 against South Africa were most critical as they saved India from certain doom, once again highlighting his importance as a match winner.
Once with Karthik, and then with Dravid and Dhoni, he showed his ability to survive under most testing circumstances. That is what India will need from him in England.
As a bowler too, Yuvraj's importance for the team can never be understated. His left-arm spin can be more than handy for any opposition.
Who can forget his spell of three for 39 against England at the Lord's in 2002, when England once threatened to breach the 300 mark. It was his wickets of Hussain, Flintoff and Thrope, which broke the backbone of England's middle order. The score of 271 was eminently achievable on the pitch and India made it with seven balls to spare.
Yuvraj remains one of India's most valuable players in England, with both bat and ball, on whose shoulders will rest the hopes of India making it a grand double.