The current Indian squad for the T20 world cup has a lot of players that pick themselves, starting with the Captain MS Dhoni, Zaheer Khan, Gautam Gambhir, Suresh Raina and Harbhajan Singh. Yuvraj Singh has been an automatic selection in limited overs cricket for India for a very long time. He is one of the cleanest strikers of the cricket ball the game has seen and the six 6’s he hit off one Stuart Broad over on that brilliant night in Durban during the 2007 T20 world cup is indelible in the memory of all Indian cricket fans and Stuart Broad. But lately, he has looked a little out of sorts. He has had a wrist injury and had a forgettable IPL tournament, where he scored a grand total of 225 runs in 14 matches at an average of 21.25 runs with a highest of 43. For someone as gifted as he is, that’s just abysmal.
That brings me to the point: Did Yuvraj Singh deserve a spot in the squad for the world cup at all? Was his spot a product, more of his reputation than his current form? It is common knowledge that Yuvraj is very comfortable against medium pacers and struggles against spinners. Considering the fact this world cup is in West Indies, where the pitches seem to be aiding spin, makes you wonder about his selection to the squad. Even his fielding quality has gone down. For his IPL team Kings XI Punjab, he doesn’t even field in the hot corner – the backward point area. MS Dhoni has shown that he trusts the off-spin of YK Pathan and the part-time spin of Suresh Raina, so Yuvraj does not bring as much value with his bowling either, any more.
I follow Yuvraj Singh on twitter and some of his tweets indicate that he is really excited to be going to the Caribbean and is looking forward to being with the boys, training and playing. At least that is a change from the sulking Yuvi that was seen for most of the IPL 2010 tournament (Yuvi strongly denied that wasn’t the case, and he wasn’t pissed off with the Punjab team management for stripping him of the captaincy). However, the value he brought to the Indian team as an electric, exciting fielder, and a breathtaking batter and a useful part-time spinner have gone down a lot in the last 6-12 months.
Even with his obvious discomfort against short-pitched bowling, Suresh Raina has gone past Yuvraj Singh in the pecking order and is showing himself to be a better fielder than Yuvi was in his peak and a more-than-useful spinner. If Yuvraj keeps (not) performing the way he is doing currently, soon, Virat Kohli will also be ahead of him in the ODI squad. Rohit Sharma has shown he has got all the talent in the world and is at least as good a fielder and bowler as Yuvraj. There is more than a crowd in Yuvraj’s limited overs cricket rear view mirror, and they are closer than they appear. He’d better get his act together and remind us all that the Yuvi we knew in the 2004-07 stretch hasn’t gone anywhere.