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Why the selectors must give Yuvraj the nod

Last updated on: November 3, 2012 11:54 IST

Why the selectors must give Yuvraj the nod

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Harish Kotian in Mumbai

Barring an injury, Yuvraj Singh's inclusion in the squad for the first Test against England is a certainty after the fine showing for India 'A' in the tour match, says Harish Kotian.

Back in February, watching pictures of Yuvraj Singh undergo the painful chemotherapy treatment, many wondered whether he would ever return to cricket.

The left-hander was battling a rare type of lung cancer and advised to undergo chemotherapy, which he did in the US. He posted pictures of himself, along with messages of his pain and frustration, on Twitter, and it was clear that he was dying to get back to his first love, cricket.

- Exclusive interview: Yuvraj Singh

But, back then, it looked a distant dream; it seemed he would need at least a year or two to make a full comeback.

However, as the saying goes, where there is a will there is a way!

Yuvraj took inspiration from the now-disgraced Lance Armstrong, who had won seven Tour de France titles after recovering from cancer, to script a remarkable comeback. Although Armstrong has been stripped of those titles, after the USADA produced evidence of doping against the cyclist, back then the American served as an inspiration for Yuvraj to get back to cricket.


Image: Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina
Photographs: Pal Pillai/Getty Images

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'First three weeks of actual training were the toughest'

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Now, seven months down the line, the left-hander's return is almost complete; he is inching closer to a place in the Indian Test team.

Indeed, it wasn't easy. Yuvraj admitted that when he first started training at the National Cricket Academy in Bangalore in June he could not even climb a few steps, forget doing a few rounds of the ground.

But the dashing batsman never gave up and continued to work hard. In his own words, he took it "step by step", and with the support of his mother Shabnam, his India team-mates, close friends, the BCCI and staff at NCA, he eventually regained fitness and form.

'It was the first three weeks of actual training that were the toughest, because the body was not used to the pain you get from training,' he said.


Image: Yuvraj Singh
Photographs: Pal Pillai/Getty Images

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Good show in World T20s

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He was fast tracked into the Indian team for the T20 World Cup in September even before he played in a first class match after his recovery.

Many felt that the previous selection committee's decision to bring back the left-hander without any proof of fitness would backfire and questioned his inclusion. But he answered his critics with a strong all-round showing in the World T20 in Sri Lanka, in September.

The all-rounder made a big contribution with the ball, claiming eight wickets in five games, but his batting failed to convince as he scored just 66 runs @ 22.

He returned from Sri Lanka and smashed a double century for North Zone in the Duleep Trophy. He batted for nearly five-and-a-half hours in the middle and his knock of 200, off 241 balls, against Central Zone dispelled all doubts.

'What was impressive was not the number of runs Yuvraj scored, but the fact that he was able to bat over five hours across two days. He must be very pleased with his level of fitness, which is [the] key when you play the longer versions of the game,' Central Zone skipper Mohammad Kaif said after the match.


Image: Yuvraj Singh
Photographs: Pal Pillai/Getty Images

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All-round show against England XI

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With India looking for a player to bat at No 6, Yuvraj again produced a timely all-round display for India 'A' against England in the drawn warm-up in Mumbai.

He hit a half-century on day one, and followed it up with his maiden five-wicket haul in first class cricket to enhance his chances of getting picked for the forthcoming four-Test series against England.

India 'A' scored 124 for 4 in their second innings before both captains decided to call off the match in the final session of the three-day encounter.

Yuvraj took five for 94 as England were dismissed for 426 in their first innings. On day one, he hit 59 from 80 balls, but failed in the second innings as he pulled a short ball from Tim Bresnan straight to Ian Bell at mid-on. However, by then, he had done enough to impress the five selectors who were watching from the sidelines.


Image: Yuvraj Singh
Photographs: Danish Siddiqui/Reuters

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'Yuvraj is spending more time in the middle'

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During the warm-up game, India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni expressed reservations about Yuvraj's possible recall to the Test side, saying: 'We have to assess whether Yuvraj is ready to field for two days.'

The left-hander's fine performance with the ball -- he bowled as many as 26.5 overs in the absence of a frontline spinner for India 'A' -- should lay to rest to all doubts.

Among his victims were the likes of Kevin Pietersen, Ian Bell, Samit Patel, Matt Prior -- all of whom will be a part of England's team for the Tests.

India 'A' coach, former Mumbai batsman Lalchand Rajput feels Yuvraj is a completely different player now and his approach is serving him well out in the middle.

'Yuvraj is spending more time in the middle and concentrating more. His shot-selection is much better and he is looking to play the big innings. His fitness is also back and I don't think he will have any problems playing Test cricket if selected," Rajput told rediff.com.

'He is totally a different person now. Off the field also he has changed a lot. He is talking a lot to his younger team-mates, trying to help everyone. He is a lot more determined and focused,' he added.


Image: Yuvraj Singh
Photographs: Danish Siddiqui/Reuters

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Extra bowling option

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Yuvraj's inclusion in the Test side will give India an extra option in bowling, because of his ability to break partnerships, which he has done with a great amount of success in the limited-overs' format.

At 30 he is still to find a permanent place in the Test squad despite being India's top player in limited-overs' cricket. His last Test was in the West Indies last year, his 37th match since making his debut in 2003.

With Suresh Raina failing to score runs for India 'A', Yuvraj is sure to take the No. 6 slot in the first Test at Ahmedabad, starting November 15.

He has another opportunity to stake his claims for a Test recall when he turns out for Punjab in the Ranji Trophy match against Hyderabad, starting on November 2 at Mohali.

The Indian squad for the first Test will be picked in Mumbai on Monday, November 5, and barring an injury, he should get the nod.


Image: Yuvraj Singh
Photographs: Pal Pillai/Getty Images

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