Focus back on Yuvraj as India meet Kiwis in second T20
Two days after persistent rain washed out his much-awaited comeback, Yuvraj Singh is ready to resume his innings in international cricket with the second Twenty20 game between India and New Zealand in Chennai on Tuesday.
The first T20 in Visakhapatnam was called off without a ball being bowled, leaving the thousands, who had thronged the stadium to watch Yuvraj's much-anticipated return from a successful battle against a rare germ cell cancer, disappointed as rain had the final say.
Yuvraj was diagnosed with the ailment between his lungs within months of winning the Man of the Tournament award in the 2011 World Cup.
Image: Yuvraj Singh
The match will also mark Harbhajan's return
His career looked in jeopardy when the diagnosis was first revealed, but the flamboyant all-rounder fought back after undergoing three cycles of chemotherapy in the United States.
After a satisfactory rehabilation programme at the NCA, the 30-year-old left-hander will be donning the Team India jersey for the first time post-treatment, and he will surely look to make a statement at the MA Chidambaram stadium.
His last international appearance was the Kolkata Test against the West Indies in November, while it is more than a year since he last played a T20 (against South Africa on January 9, 2011).
Besides Yuvraj, the match will also mark Harbhajan Singh's return to the squad after a long layoff. The off-spinner had gone out of favour after India was blanked 0-4 in the disastrous England tour last July-August.
However, with his immediate challenger Ravichandran Ashwin in great form, having taken wickets by the bagful in recent matches, chances of Harbhajan being included in the playing eleven do not look too bright.
It will be interesting to see if the think-tank goes for an all-off-spin attack.
Image: Yuvraj Singh and teammate Harbhajan Singh
Weather can play spoilsport
The brief two-match series assumes significance as it signals the start of India's countdown for the World Twenty20 that gets underway in Sri Lanka on September 18.
And with the first match being washed out, the Men in Blue will look to utilise Tuesday's encounter to the fullest, though inclement weather can play spoilsport again.
The visitors may hold an edge statistically, having won all their three T20 ties against India, but the hosts will still start as favourites after their 2-0 sweep in the Test series.
Photographs: REUTERS/Vivek Prakash
Kohli is India's man in form
While Yuvraj and Harbhajan's presence have added to their strengths, India's mainstay in batting in recent months is undoubtedly Virat Kohli.
The youngster from Delhi is going through a purple patch of sorts, having scored runs in every format of the game and against almost every opposition.
The hosts also have Suresh Raina, who has excelled in this format. Having played at the Chennai venue in four of the last five editions of the Indian Premier League, the Chennai Super Kings star knows the conditions like the back of his hand.
Add to it the explosive opening pair of Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir, and the batting line-up looks formidable.
Sehwag has not been in the best of form of late, but one can never take him lightly.
Image: Virat Kohli
Photographs: REUTERS/Vivek Prakash
Irfan's resurgence is another positive for India
Last but not the least is the calm influence of skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni, one of the hardest hitters in world cricket.
In the middle-order Rohit Sharma will have to prove his worth soon enough or the struggling batsman might end up losing his spot to the talented Manoj Tiwary, who is waiting in the wings.
As far as bowling is concerned, Ashwin will be the man to look out for. He flummoxed the Kiwis, picking 18 wickets in the Test series. The local boy is keen to continue the dream run in front of his home crowd.
The resurgence of seamer Irfan Pathan in the last ODI series in Sri Lanka is another positive for India. Also returing to the side, after being on the sidelines for more than three-and-a-half years, is pacer Laxmipathy Balaji.
The unassuming bowler paved the way for his comeback with a tidy performance for IPL champions Kolkata Knight Riders, and will certainly look to make an impression if he gets a look-in alongside spearhead Zaheer Khan.
Image: Irfan Pathan
Photographs: Tom Shaw/Getty Images
Kiwis counting on experienced campaigners
On the other hand, New Zealand have been struggling for a while now, having lost three consecutive Test series (against South Africa, West Indies and India).
The Black Caps will look to experienced campaigners, like Jacob Oram, Daniel Vettori and Kyle Mills, who have joined the side for the T20s, hoping for a turnaround in fortunes ahead of the World T20.
Captain Ross Taylor, who struck a counter-attacking century in the Test series, and big-hitting opener Brendon McCullum will have to shoulder the batting responsibilty.The ones mentioned above have the experience of playing in these conditions thanks to their IPL stints.
The visitors will also expect handy contributions from pacers Doug Bracewell, Tim Southee and James Franklin.
India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt), Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Irfan Pathan, Harbhajan Singh, Ravichandran Ashwin, Zaheer Khan, Laxmipathy Balaji, Ashok Dinda, Piyush Chawla and Manoj Tiwary.
New Zealand: Ross Taylor (capt), Brendon McCullum (wk), Martin Guptill, Kane Williamson, James Franklin, Rob Nicol, Jacob Oram, Doug Bracewell, Daniel Vettori, Tim Southee, Adam Milne, Nathan McCullum, Ronnie Hira, Kyle Mills and BJ Watling.
Match starts 1900 IST
Image: Brendon McCullum
Photographs: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images