'Yuvraj was like a God's gift, I have been his ardent fan and I will remain an ardent fan of Yuvraj. But he has to put runs on the board and he has to prove his fitness.'
Former chairman of national selection committee Sandeep Patil called Yuvraj Singh 'God's gift' to Indian cricket but said form and fitness will hold the key to the seasoned campaigner's participation in the 2019 World Cup.
After being dropped for the Sri Lanka series, Yuvraj was also not considered for the first three ODIs of the five-match series against Australia at home, starting in Chennai on Sunday, but Patil seemed optimistic about another comeback.
"It's fitness and form," Patil said when asked about the old warhorse's future in international cricket, keeping in mind the 50-overs World Cup to be held in England in 2019.
"I am not the selector now. Two years is too long a period and the kind of injuries you have seen, there is too much workload on each player," the former India batsman and coach added.
The 36-year-old Yuvraj, who last played an ODI against the West Indies in June, became the fifth player to represent the country 300 times in the format when he took to the field against Bangladesh in the ICC Champions Trophy semi-final this year.
"Yuvraj was like a God's gift, I have been his ardent fan and I will remain an ardent fan of Yuvraj. But he has to put runs on the board and he has to prove his fitness."
A slew of significant milestones that he reached in the recent 5-0 ODI whitewash of Sri Lanka amply demonstrated Mahendra Singh Dhoni's continuing influence in the limited overs game, and Patil termed him a 'special player'.
"It will be looked after by the professionals, who are working with the Indian team, so it will be wrong on my part to say what is going to happen with Dhoni, Yuvraj. But they are special cricketers, I wish I had even five percent of what they (kind of talent) have," the 61-year-old Patil, a former India batsman, said.
Patil, who headed the selection committee from 2012 to 2016, oversaw a period of transition in Indian cricket with the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman walking into international sunset.
"We had a very difficult task of replacing players such as Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Zaheer Khan and get these youngsters. Somewhere, in my mind, I am very happy that the bold decisions which we took are giving tremendous results."
He praised Hardik Pandya's development as an all-rounder but when asked about the comparisons drawn with Kapil Dev, Patil said it will take him 200 births to take the legendary cricketer's place.
He also lauded the current selection committee's move to rest the top spin duo of Ravichandran Aswhin and Ravindra Jadeja, saying his panel had also tried doing similar things.
Patil acknowledged the Indian cricket team's dominating showing in the last year or so, but claimed it remains to be seen how it performs in South Africa and England next summer.
"Indian team is at the top now, they are in top form, they are in top fitness, the combination, everything is going right. But, if you look at the history of cricket, about every 10 years things changed.
"It was West Indies who ruled the 1950s and 60s, then it was Australia, then it was Pakistan, South Africa and now India is ruling so it would be very wrong of me to say that."
"It's cricket, it's a funny game, you have to go out there, start afresh. Every day is fresh, every over is fresh, every ball is fresh and to repeat that is not easy. India is playing great cricket," he said.
"It will be an acid test for India (in South Africa and England), and for that matter if you look at the history of each team, whenever each team has travelled away from their home countries they have struggled.
"Let's not talk only about India. Australia, when they came here, they struggled, and similarly, when we go there we struggle so it's the same for each team."