Cricket

Yuvraj is growing in stature

Yuvraj Singh displayed loads of belief when India was a single mistake away from elimination. Photo: PTI  

Emotions swirled around. The rhythmic beating of the drums from the stands grew louder. The vast mass of fans at Motera were on a prayer.

When Mahendra Singh Dhoni trudged back after succumbing to the cut shot, India was on the brink. The Australians had scented a kill. Would the Aussies display their famous end-game skills to close out the contest? Or would the host dig deep into its resolve to extricate itself from the hole? This certainly was not the place for the weak hearted.

In a sudden death situation, India lived.

India bucked the odds even as the Aussies, undone by a feeble spin combination, wilted. The side with greater belief entered the last four stage of the ICC World Cup.

Yuvraj displayed loads of this commodity when India was, perhaps, a single mistake away from elimination. He held the innings together when it threatened to come apart and then donned the cloak of a finisher. This man is growing in stature.

The gifted left-hander had added temperament to his wealth of strokes. Yuvraj's shot-selection had improved remarkably, so has his response to differing situations.

Yuvraj's average in this World Cup so far is a staggering 113.66 – he has notched up 341 runs in seven matches at a strike-rate of 86.32. It can be hard for a No. 5 or 4 to come up with weighty innings in a one-dayer but Yuvraj has raised the bar for his batsmanship.

There is a solidity about his ways at the crease now that has added another dimension to his batting. Yuvraj had worked hard on his back-swing, footwork and balance. The results are showing.

And his left-arm spin is now an integral part of the Indian attack. Dhoni trusts him to complete his 10 overs; Yuvraj is no longer a part-timer. Yuvraj is using more body in his action these days and is no more a mere roller of the ball. He is ripping the ball harder, finding more turn.

Yuvraj is also varying his pace and trajectory and inviting the batsmen for the fatal miscued front-footed drive or the swipe against the turn. He has 11 wickets at 24.63 (economy rate 4.92) in the championship so far.

Calm-headed and daring

Let's not forget the contribution from Suresh Raina. He held his nerve in the cauldron, coped with immense pressure in a manner that was both calm-headed and daring.

Raina did not flinch against the short-pitched stuff from the Aussie quicks and his astonishing six over long-on off Brett Lee will stay in memory for long. From a psychological perspective, that stroke settled the issue. The hunter had become the hunted.

Raina also made a huge difference to the Indian fielding; he was buzzing around in the in-field and his rousing stops put a spring in the steps of the bowlers.

Having both Raina and Virat Kohli in the circle is crucial to India's success. The electric duo do put the batsmen under stress, open avenues for the side.

The Indian attack appears more incisive with R. Ashwin opening the bowling with the mercurial Zaheer Khan. Apart from his crafty bowling in phases where the batsmen go after the spin bowlers, Ashwin displayed great commitment on the field.

Zaheer's delicious mix of potent deliveries and sheer control have tormented the batsmen. Used in short bursts, the paceman's Yorkers have been on target after the mid-way mark of the innings. Zaheer's change of pace has baffled and consumed batsmen. And Harbhajan Singh has combined well with Ashwin even if wickets continue to elude him.

In the end, it was a team-effort that took India past the finishing line. The half-centuries from Gautam Gambhir and Sachin Tendulkar put the host on course. Crucially, India prevented Australia from making early inroads.

This is time for introspection for Australia. Without game-changers such as Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath, Adam Gilchrist and Matthew Hayden, the side is a vastly diminished force. The Aussies still possessed a threatening pace pack but eventually the lack of quality in spin hurt the side when it mattered.

Skipper Ponting made a statement about class being timeless with a well-constructed hundred under pressure but then his pace-oriented attack became rather one-dimensional in the sub-continental conditions.

A Warne could be have really tested the Indians on a dry surface such as the one at Motera. Forget the legends, Australia does not even have spinners who can be termed `average' in the international arena.

Now India faces a challenge of another kind at Mohali. Pakistan has a worthy spin combination, is familiar with the conditions.

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Printable version | Nov 24, 2020 6:42:20 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/cricket/Yuvraj-is-growing-in-stature/article14961122.ece

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