Yuvraj has pushed his case with two significant hundreds and handy work with the ball, writes Peter Roebuck
Cricketers are best known by their peers. No one can judge a batsman better than a leather-flinger called upon to take his wicket or a partner standing 22 yards away.
Until last month Yuvraj Singh was widely regarded around the world as a clean hitter unlikely to contribute when the ball was wobbling around or flying past his nostrils. In short, he fell short of the standard required by those seeking accreditation as Test match batsmen.
Yuvraj seemed destined to pursue a glamorous but stilted career in the one-day arena. Everyone could remember his six “sixers” and other swashbuckling contributions in the abbreviated form of the game. Thanks to these forthright interventions, large crowds roared his name, cameras followed his every step, gossip columns reported upon his nocturnal activities. In short, he became a popular hero. He became rich and famous outside the Test team.
A head-turning experience
It must have been a head-turning experience. Hereabouts, Yuvraj seemed to represent the brave new world of cricket — a game of flash and bravado, a game that forgets about tomorrow. He was living in a merry-go-round, an approach the lofty lefty seemed to embrace.
At times on the recent tour of the antipodes, the northerner seemed to be as much a social butterfly as a serious batsman. He had a rotten series. Wayward with the bat and sluggish in the field, he was a liability.
Unsurprisingly, Australians scoffed at suggestions that the upright left-hander might yet assert himself in the highest company, in the form of the game that decides a man’s eventual standing. Many were bemused that he had been preferred to a batsman as accomplished as Virender Sehwag. Obviously, his dashing hundred against a depleted Pakistani attack had helped. Nevertheless he looked out of his depth.
Accordingly, it came as a surprise to hear local first class colleagues and opponents talking respectfully about him. One senior domestic batsman, a former Test player himself and still a candidate, said that he had seen Yuvraj play some astonishing strokes and striking innings — the sort of efforts that set him apart from the pack.
He had seen him play blocks that sent the ball speeding to the boundary. Punjab team-mates also sang his praises and added that, for all his wealth and fame, Yuvraj remained hungry.
Most of all he wanted to fight his way back in the five day team, knew it was the truest measure of a cricketer. He did not want to be typecast, did not seek only glitz and glitter. In short, he yearned for credibility.
Grabbing the opportunity
Sourav Ganguly’s retirement provided an opening for contenders. It was up to them to state their case. At the start of these one-day matches, Yuvraj was an outsider. Badrinath had been the squad’s reserve batsman and Murali Vijay had made an accomplished first appearance in Nagpur. Yuvraj had to produce something special. Fifties and sixes and a few wickets was not going to force the selectors’ hand. Nor could he rely on a single scintillating innings. He had to show consistency and authority.
Yuvraj accepted the challenge, pushing his case with two significant hundreds and handy work with the ball. Taking charge of his fate, he did not so much ask for recognition as demand it. Now, he must take the next step by proving his worth as a Test cricketer.
Sooner or later a man must turn his back on superficiality and pursue substance. I think Yuvraj will make it this time. He has matured. Life has seen to that.
In the end, a man returns to his room and looks in the mirror.