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Yuvraj Singh: The Road Ahead

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Yuvraj_Singh_cricket_IndiaYuvraj Singh’s career graph has witnessed a significant roller coaster journey with many ups and downs. From being the man of the tournament in the 2011 World Cup to being ignored in the 30 man squad for the 2015 World Cup, to again fighting his way back in contention for the 2019 event, the narrative of one of India’s biggest match winners has been gripping.

Success did not come overnight for Yuvraj. It has been a result of hard work and dedication, learning from failures, and sheer determination & persistence to succeed. He has faced an enormous number of setbacks and always managed to come out stronger and vigorous than ever. As the great Sachin Tendulkar said, “If there's one word that personifies [Yuvraj], its resilience and he embodies this spirit like nobody else.”

 

While it can be acknowledged that his glory days are past, it might be tougher to accept that Yuvraj Singh is nowhere the player he once used to be. While it may be foolish to expect him playing with the energy of a 25-year-old at the age of 35, his role in the team is something that needs to be carefully analysed. Batting at the coveted No.4 position, he's expected to deliver to a greater extent.

 

However, his inconsistency has raised questions about whether he'll continue to bat there for a prolonged period. In recent times, there has been too much pressure on the top 3 batsmen to score the bulk of the runs, with Dhoni going through an indifferent patch and a young, unreliable and often untested lower order. 

It isn't just Yuvi’s batting levels that have dropped. Even though he was one of the players who brought about the fielding revolution in Indian cricket, he hasn't managed to revive it towards the end phase of his career. He has hardly bowled since his comeback, but his athleticism as a fielder has been dearly missed as well. Of late, he's been quite lethargic and sluggish in the field. As a fielder, the odds are generally stacked against him now.

He was known as the epitome of excellence. Everyone knew the kind of potential he possessed. He had the knack of delivering big shots at will when in the groove. His stylish batting and clean hitting had always been a delight to watch for any cricket lover. He had this amazing ability to turn the tide in his team's favour from any kind of situation. If winning games from losing positions was an art, Yuvraj Singh would be Picasso. 

 

Throughout his career, he has aced some splendid chases and even shouldered the batting responsibility after early dismissals. My thoughts go back to the 2002 Natwest series where he and Mohammed Kaif helped India chase a total in excess of 300 after being five down; or the more recent example of India’s recovery from 25/3 as he along with Dhoni rolled back the years with a scintillating 256 run partnership against England. 

 

However, his current form, where he's capable of producing two good cameos out of 10 games, doesn't justify keeping the other bright prospects out of the team. His batting abilities have diminished and time keeps running out for him. If you look at the larger picture, it seems highly unlikely that Yuvi would feature in the 2019 World Cup.

Opportunities come rarely and, more often than not, other batsmen have grabbed them and made the best of them. With Shikhar Dhawan back in fine form, it's quite obvious that he and Rohit Sharma would claim the opening spots. That puts KL Rahul in the reckoning for the middle order and he would have his eyes on the No.4 spot. On the other hand, Dinesh Karthik has done well in the limited opportunities he has gotten. With a young Rishabh Pant knocking on the door, the selectors would no doubt prefer backing a youngster's potential.

All these factors make the Sri Lankan tour a now or never scenario for Yuvraj Singh. This may well count as one final opportunity for him to improve. If he manages to make it count, he may well stay into the scheme of things. If he fails, the team management may run out of patience and it would be really difficult to accommodate him.

When Yuvraj Singh was recalled in the ODI squad earlier this year, it seemed like he had some unfinished business. While he did prove himself worthy of being on that plane to England for the Champions Trophy, the upcoming months will decide whether that unfinished business was retiring with grace and dignity to mark the end of an illustrious career or representing India one last time and swing his bat to glory in the 2019 World Cup. We hope it's the latter. 

 

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