By Kanishkaa Balachandran/NIA
The batsman may have had a fantastic domestic season, but finding a place for him in the one-day XI is trickier than it looks
Just when you think he has played his last game for India, a door opens for yet another comeback. We don’t know if Yuvraj Singh himself had given up on an India comeback the last time he was dropped, but a new selection committee decided on Friday that the left-handed batsman still had something more to offer, even at 35.
Yuvraj’s recall was the surprise element when the squads for the one-dayers and T20s against England were announced. The squads also included 19 year old Rishabh Pant from Delhi, India’s latest Under-19 star, known for giving the ball a whack. And he’s a wicketkeeper too. That Pant made it to the team shouldn’t come as a surprise, having scored 972 runs in the Ranji Trophy season. Yuvraj had a fine season too, so it was difficult for the selectors to ignore a man in good form.
In five matches for Punjab, Yuvraj scored a massive 672 runs at an average of 84 runs per innings, including 260 in one innings against Baroda. True, the Ranji Trophy is a four-day format, and it’s the only competitive tournament the selectors can use to judge players for selection for an upcoming one-day series. The chances of him coming back to Test cricket are slim, so the only way back would be via the limited-overs squads. That’s the way all selection committees, including this one, have viewed Yuvraj, since his return from cancer in 2012.
Yuvraj finds himself in a very strong one-day squad, with younger batsmen returning from injury and MS Dhoni, having just quit the limited-overs captaincy, staying on as a player. But this big question is, despite the experience Yuvraj brings, can he walk right back in to the ODI XI?
It’s not as straightforward as it may seem. Rohit Sharma is injured, but Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul (both missed the previous series against New Zealand) are back in the team and are first-choice openers. Virat Kohli is guaranteed at No. 3. The No.4 slot will be an interesting one, if Dhoni decides to stay there or drop a few slots below. If Dhoni goes down the order, then Ajinkya Rahane may bat at No.4.
In recent matches, India have given chances to Manish Pandey and Kedar Jadhav in the lower middle-order. Jadhav is being seen as a hitter who can finish innings well. If Yuvraj needs to come in, one of these two would have to make way. But here’s another catch. Ravindra Jadeja is also back in the squad and he essentially plays the same role as Yuvraj – a left-hander who also bowls left-arm spin. You can’t ignore Jadeja after his splendid form in the England Tests. Then come R Ashwin (another man returning to the one-day squad) and the bowlers.
So where does Yuvraj fit in this equation? Maybe at No.4 at the expense of Rahane. Over the last three years, Yuvraj’s skills as a hitter have diminished, leaving him vulnerable as a lower-order batsman. In the last two World T20s, his scoring wasn’t quick enough, yet India persisted with him. He would have to bat higher up the order.
Yuvraj stands a better chance of making the T20 XI, as the competition for spots is relatively less. Whether he makes either XI or not, one thing his fans will fall back on is that by virtue of his domestic runs, he is still enjoying batting.
(Kanishkaa Balachandran is a freelance writer on cricket, travel, films and music)