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Yuvraj, the man with golden arm

England series was a discovery as well as rediscovery in the bowling department, writes Atul Sondhi.

india Updated: Apr 17, 2006 19:38 IST

The last six months have been a dream come true for the Indian one-day brigade.

More so in the bowling department.

Thanks to some exceptional performances since the beginning of the Sri Lanka series, India have lost just five internationals while winning a staggering 17.

The rainbow throws even more vibrant colours as one takes into account the year 2006.

These exceptional performances have materialised thanks to both makeshift as well as frontline bowlers.

 India's record since SL series

 PlayedWin Lost Win % 
 22 17 5 77.3

 India's ODI record in 2006

 PlayedWin Lost Win % 
 11 9 2 81.8

Left arm of Yuvraj Singh:This elegant left-hander has today become one of the most treasured possessions of the Indian team. He is India's man with the golden arm, as well as a batsman par excellence.

The way Yuvraj picked up his batting after an average Test series and a dismal show in the first two ODIs was a near-perfect lesson in innings building.

But even more important has been Yuvraj's form with the ball. With many batsmen tending to sweep the Indian spinners, Yuvraj's away-going deliveries from the right-handers can get them in trouble.

It certainly can't be fluke that England's top batsman Pietersen was out three times out of five toYuvraj!Pietersen's was a wicket that every frontline bowler would have cherished.

Leading Indian bowlers in England series

 Bowler Matches Wickets Avg Econ
 Harbhajan Singh 5 12 15.58 3.74
 Irfan Pathan 5 11 15.63 4.31
 S Sreesanth 4 10 16.30 6.07
 Ramesh Powar 5 7 28.25 4.23
 Yuvraj Singh 6 6 30.00 4.28

The most creditable thing about Yuvraj's performance has been his exceptional economy in the series, almost equal to that of Powar and better than Pathan. Yuvraj can be more than handy with the ball if properly cultivated.

Incisive Sreesanth: But for Sreesanth's four wickets at the fag end England's innings at Indore, India could well have been chasing a target in excess of 300 runs.

The 23-year-old Kerala speedster has been a revelation ever since his debut against Sri Lanka at Nagpur in October, 2005. He has become more and more penetrative during the last three series.Sreesanth's average and strike-rate bear ample testimony to that.

 Sreesanth in three series

 Opposition Wickets Avg SR RPO
 Eng in 2006 10 16.30 16.10 6.07
 Pak in 2006 6 48.17 48.00 6.02
 SL in 2005 4 48.75 47.50 6.16

However, there is a catch. Sreesanth's overall economy for each of the series has been disappointing.On an average he has given away over run-a-ball for all the deliveries he has sent down as an ODI bowler.

If we take individual matches, Sreesanth's economy has been above five per over in 12 out of 13 ODIs that he has played.

That is clearly not enough for a main strike-bowler. With the kind of faith Chappell has shown in this Keraliate, he does treat him as one of India's top strike bowlers.

Turbunator and his Powar

It is rare for India to go in with two off-spinners in an ODI. Many people thought the move was doomed from the beginning. However, Powar and Harbhajan have responded brilliantly to the challenge.

Most heartening has been Harbhajan's getting back to form. In fact, he started England's slide towards doom with a five-wicket haul at Kotla, after the visitors had looked like taking a 1-0 lead.

Harbhajan took 12 wickets in this series as against 13 in the fifteen matches prior to the series. His oscillating strike-rate stabilized at a respectable one wicket per 25 balls and average per wicket too came down to fifteen.

 Harbhajan in last 20 matches

 Matches Wkts Avg SR Econ
 1-5 12 15.58 25.00 3.74
 6-10 4 36.40 60.00 3.64
 11-15 6 26.17 45.66 3.44
 16-20 2 99.00 124.50 4.77

Harbhajan also turned out to be the most disciplined bowler of the series along with Agarkar.

Of the 300 deliveries that India's first choice spinner bowled, there was not a single wide or no ball! Ditto for Agarkar for his 77 deliveries in two matches.

Powar who? Some people did snigger and it was enough to spur Power into a real power-packed display.

By the end of the series, he was found out to be an able ally of Harbhajan, in terms of taking crucial wickets as well as restricting the flow of runs.

England batsmen found difficult to counterPowar'sresolve, as he chipped in with seven wickets in five matches against just one in pervious three against Pakistan.

 Powar's progress

  Wkts Avg RPO SR
 Before Eng series 1 101 5.05 120
 Overall 8 38 4.47 51

Pathan was expected to deliver, and he delivered. But the most soothing thing was India was the rediscovery of Harbhajan as chief spinner in the run-up to the World Cup, and findingPowarwho packs the punch.

India will be hoping for some more top-class performances from these bowlers, as they prepare to go one-step higher than what they achievedin the 2003 World Cup.