Yuvraj Singh has demonstrated to the world that he is a bold and brave man. He took the plunge once he was clear in his mind that he had overcome a near life threatening illness and the time was ripe to bat, bowl and field and get into serious business of cricket. The BCCI also played its part making him available for selection for the Twenty20 format of the game against New Zealand and also for the ICC Twenty20 World Cup in Sri Lanka. Doubts persisted among his legion of fans, media, and cricketing fraternity if the left hander had made the mistake of rushing into intense action of international cricket discounting his health.
Thankfully he’s been able to meet the challenges — of health and cricketing ability —and has proved everyone wrong; after a long absence playing the Test against Darren Sammy’s West Indies at the Eden Gardens in November 2011, Yuvraj made his presence in the Twenty20 against New Zealand in Chennai and the Twenty20 World Cup. But it was his five hour 33 minutes tenure in the Duleep Trophy match against Central Zone in which he made 208 that has reinforced the belief that he is looking to compete with Suresh Raina and have a shot for a middle order slot for the four Test series against England.
It has been a little over nine years that Yuvraj Singh made his Test debut against New Zealand at his home ground in Mohali, but he’s not been able to extend the form he showed in limited over cricket to the traditional Test match, impose himself upon and force the selectors to give permanency in Test ranks. Players much younger to him like Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara have stolen the thunder. He’s been capped 37 times, but returns have been unsatisfactory, except for hitting a purple patch against Pakistan in the away and home series (7 Tests, 572 runs with three centuries, 112 (Rawalpindi), 122 (Karachi) and 169 (Bangalore). Though off spinner Muthiah Muralitharan has scalped him four times, it is the seamers who have troubled his vulnerable defensive technique.
Yuvraj will be 31 soon and he would fancy his chances of proving to be a successful batsman across all formats in the remaining years of his active cricket. He has a good record against England (five Tests, 346 runs) and his 62 in the first innings of the Trent Bridge Test in the last English summer may just about cheer him up when he squares up against James Anderson & co in the first warm up match the Brabourne Stadium. The selection committee would not necessarily look at the number of runs he makes against them, but just how he shapes up on a wicket that would be a far cry from the type of wickets Indians folded up at Lord’s, Trent Bridge, Egbaston and Oval.
The Punjab left hander has scored 1775 runs at 34.80 (1359 at No. 6) and he will be on the face of it competing against Uttar Pradesh left hander Raina (17 Tests, 768 runs with one century and seven half centuries and majority of it at No. 6). After a poor run against England last summer (105 runs 4 Tests), Raina was dropped for the series against the West Indies and Australia, but recalled for the recent two Test rubber against New Zealand. He made 55 at Bangalore and maybe as of now the front runner for the No. 6 slot. Clearly Raina has not been very comfortable against short balls the England seamers would try to deploy against him at the Brabourne next week.
It has to be seen if Sandeep Patil and his colleagues would look beyond Raina and Yuvraj for the No. 6 slot; Ajinkya Rahane, Murali Vijay, Abhinav Mukund, Shikhar Dhawan, Manoj Tiwary are all going to be in action against England. It’s not known of Rohit Sharma would be in the team that would play the four-day practice against England at Ahmedabad. Sharma does not figure in the India ‘A’ team or Mumbai ‘A’ team.
Anyway the three warm up games will give an opportunity for the new selection committee to look at aplenty before the Test series against England and Australia. For the first two Test matches though it looks like a contest between Yuvraj and Raina with the latter enjoying a slight edge, but a spectacular showing from Yuvraj may see him force the issue before the selectors pick the team for Motera.