Thursday, March 27, 2014

Right time to drop Yuvraj Singh from the playing 11?

Indian T20 team is on a high after back to back wins against former T20 champions - Pakistan and West Indies. And these are no small teams. Honestly, the back to back wins have not surprised me. We have a strong team with genuine match winners. Right from Dhawan, Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli in the top order to Raina, Dhoni and Jadeja in the middle and lower order, we have batting depth. We can, theoretically, chase down a huge score. 

But that hasn't happened right? Surprise, surprise... our bowlers were instrumental in convincing wins. Amit Mishra has had a comeback of sorts with man of the match performances. Suddenly, no one is talking about the 10-ball thrashing he received in the practice session from MS Dhoni. Pace bowlers have played the supporting role to the T. Batsmen just did what was required to them - to chase down the achievable target with relative ease. Everything looks hunky-dory now for team India. We suddenly look like championship material with fewer weak links.

One such weak link is Yuvraj Singh. 

Yuvraj's IPL performance in the last season (Batting) - 
Stats courtesy -

Yuvraj's IPL performance in the last season (Bowling) - 
Stats courtesy -

Based on the stats above and the common perception of the player, I am sure you will respond by saying "He's played just two T20 games so far" and that "Form is temporary, class is permanent". Very true. Infact "Yuvraj" and "weak link" cannot be used in the same sentence. But unfortunately, that's what it has come down to. His contribution towards the two matches his team has played (and won) in this T20 world cup has been poor and abysmal compared to his own high standards. His batting confidence has deteriorated. The way he has given away his wicket in both the matches shows a lack of application. The sitter he dropped off Chris Gayle is completely unlike the Yuvraj we know and admire. The one over he bowled isn't worth mentioning. He doesn't even look part of the team setup. So far, we have managed to win despite his apparent lack of form.

Team India has batsmen who can bowl those 3-4 overs of spin. Jadeja is included in the team as an all-rounder. There's Raina who can bowl offspin and is brought in to bowl primarily to left-handers. Rohit Sharma can bowl an over or two. This is over and above bowlers like B Kumar, Shami, Ashwin and Mishra. That's a total of 4 bowlers, 1 all rounder and 2 part-timers for 20 overs. Wonder where Yuvraj Singh fits in? Interestingly, India has a suitable replacement for Yuvraj Singh in Ravindra Jadeja. Jadeja is known to play that crucial innings at the death, bowls miserly, takes wickets at important junctures and is a good fielder - everything that Yuvraj does! If Yuvraj is taken as a 2-down batsman to add to the batting depth, isn't he more of a risk when we will, in all probability, be entering the business end (Read: knockouts) of the tournament? Is an in-form Rahane better than a struggling Yuvraj?

I have always believed that any Cricketer worth his salt is just one game away from regaining his form. And Yuvraj is no different. He is a special cricketer. For all we know, he can come in to bat the next T20 game, score a quick-fire 50 and win it for his team. Or bowl that crucial #OneBigOver (the way they are promoting WT20 this year) in the middle of the innings and swing the match India's way. Or can dive and catch the ball out of thin air or effect a match altering run-out. He is capable of all this and more. But capability is just one half of the story. The other half - performance - is what he is lacking.

So, is this the right time to drop Yuvraj from the playing 11? Dhoni is known to give long rope to the players he believe in and he may just persist with Yuvraj.  For now, I feel we need to continue with him, win against Bangladesh and confirm our presence in the semi-finals. Then, think of resting a top order batsman like Kohli / Rohit Sharma and allow Ajinkya Rahane to play against Australia. See who among Yuvraj and Rahane is more suitable for Team India and make a calculated choice for the semi-finals. After all, the collective intention is to win the World T20 Championship - with or without any specific player.

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