Like in life, miracles do happen in sport but Indian cricket’s ‘fighterman’ Yuvraj Singh may not be seen again in a blue jersey, something he had made his own for the better part of the last 17 years.
The national selectors on Sunday did not name the 36-year-old for the ODI series in Sri Lanka, a tough but fair call, indicating their mindset going into the 2019 World Cup in England.
So, is it time up for Yuvraj Singh? Perhaps, it is if one reads between the lines of what experts feel.
“Yuvi is a fighter but I believe going into the 2019 World Cup, it is more to do with his fitness rather than just form. Look, there’s a difference between 20-over fitness and 50-over fitness,” Saba Karim, who was a national selector in the last panel, told on Monday.
“It was our panel, who got Yuvraj back in 2015 for the Australia T20. At that point, we were looking only at the World T20 in India and Yuvraj’s experience. But now it’s different. I believe Manish (Pandey) is a great talent and should be given enough opportunities,” the former India stumper said.
“We have a little over one and half years to the World Cup. The core team needs to get 40 matches at least. And Manish has done extremely well as India A captain. And he is perhaps one of the best fielders in current Indian line-up,” Karim observed.
An interesting piece of statistic will help in understanding the practical reason behind the selectors’ call.
When India will go into World Cup in 2019, it will be one of India’s oldest teams in terms of average age playing a marquee event.
Skipper Kohli will be nearly 31, Rohit Sharma will be 32, Shikhar Dhawan 33, Kedar Jadhav 34, Ravichandran Ashwin 32, Ravindra Jadeja 30, Umesh Yadav 31, and last but not the least Mahendra Singh Dhoni will be 38 plus.
From being a precocious U-19 talent thrown into the deep end of the pool by Sourav Ganguly in 2000, Yuvraj’s career has been one of the most eventful ones with various shades all mixed in a palette one calls life.
Yuvraj, in all these 17 years, has been a bundle of contradictions.
He has been one of India’s greatest ever limited-overs exponent yet someone, whose failures as a Test cricketer have managed to baffle all and sundry.
He singlehandedly won a World T20 Cup for India in 2007 in South Africa and then played a ‘big role’ in losing the 2014 edition in Bangladesh.
He coughed blood, hung around and won India the 2011 World Cup. He even battled a rare germ cell cancer--a testimony to triumph in life.
But possibly there’s not much fuel left in the tank for one more comeback on the field.
Former India opener and analyst Aakash Chopra raised a valid question.
“Unless selectors come out with a definitive statement on Yuvraj, you don’t exactly know their policy. Having said that you possibly can’t have two 38-year-olds going into the World Cup.
If you have both Dhoni and Yuvi, you will have to make them bat at No 4 and 5. That will be an issue,” Chopra explained.
He also feels that whether it’s persisting with Yuvraj or giving Manish his share of chances, a clear-cut thought process will be required.
“If you continue playing someone whom you don’t want in the longer run and not give chances to one you think can do the assigned job, you are not being fair to both of them. Also, we now have KL Rahul, Kedar Jadhav and Manish--in that middle order,” said Chopra.
“Perhaps, selectors and the team management feel that Manish can be the No 4 and look at preparing Kedar as a finisher,” Chopra said.
With 8,701 runs in 304 ODIs to his credit, may be the die-hard Yuvraj fans would love to believe that a last hurrah would be somewhere around the corner.
Even if not, there’s no embarrassment as it has been a career worth celebrating.