How long do you persist with a man whose talent goes beyond doubt but in someway or the other it just doesn't gets transformed into results? This question must now be haunting the selectors of Indian cricket team for Yuvraj Singh, the man in question has the potential to murder any bowling attack on any given surface and on any given day, but his successes no matter how lofty they might be are just too infrequent.
Laden with natural talent and an attitude to grab the bull by its horn, this talented southpaw from Punjab, captured the imagination of a cricket-frenzy nation when he scored an imperious 84 against the formidable Australian bowling unit and that too in his first ODI batting appearance.
He stormed in to the national team after a great showing in the u-19 world cup. His reputation to strike the ball clean and big, led comparisons to the West Indian great Brian Lara. What he lacked in terms of Lara's swiftness in the batting crease, was compensated by unadulterated power.
As blasphemous this may sound, I still feel that irrespective of the statistics, he is in the same league as Lara at least in terms of skill and stroke-play. And probably also in the erratic pattern of scoring runs.
When Lara was on song, it was a treat to watch. The high back-lift, accentuated by nimble foot movement never allowed a bowler to settle into his rhythm. But then for all his repertoire of being a wonderful stroke-maker, he lacked the consistency of a Sachin or Ponting. Same is the case for Yuvraj. If he scores, then there's hardly a distraction to move an avid cricket fan glued to his seat. The arrogance manifests itself in his back-lift and the cruising ball courtesy his punch through the covers is worth many visual retreats. But then as with Lara they happen too randomly.
For a talent of his calibre, he still doesn't have a proven Test record and is currently out of the Test squad. As to why he fails to perform in Tests, is a set of completely different reasons from his inconsistent show in ODIs. In Tests, it is more of a mental block than a lack of skill and temperement. He could probably take a leaf out of Sehwag's book and do what he does best.
In a Test match, he often seems to resemble a man unsure whether to spend or to save the millions at disposal. More often than not, he fails to this conundrum than to a bowler's skill. And unfortunately for players like him, a middle-path is simply not viable.
If he ever gets a chance to play another Test in national colours, which I'm sure he will, then I would like him to think like he did in the year 2000. He should break free from the shackles of indiscretion to attack. And once he does that, I don't think there is any bowler in the world right now, who won't search for a hiding. And then, all the doubts about his susceptibility to spinners at the initial stages of his innings will be laid to rest. With a bit of luck and a clutter free mind, he can still ensure a place in the Indian Test line-up.
Yuvraj's ODI track record is a proven one. Don't forget that he was the man who ensured that India for long considered to be poor chasers, ran down targets in a record 17 matches on the trot. And some of the scores were pretty big.
It's true that his form of late has left a lot to be desired. He looks a grim shadow of his imposing best. It is only he to be blamed for this situation. He had injuries that probably made him a bit idle which eventually led to bulging waistline and thus fledgling fitness. He spent time off the field and with an overjealous media keeping an hawk's eye on his every move, his instincts were overtaken by a safety-first approach.
Though he has done admirably well, to fast track into his own fitness standards. He is still some way far from his batting best. And there lies the issue. He is still bowling well, and fielding fine though not as good as he once did. Critics and fans point to his batting failures.
The issue is a small and simple one but it is one that can make the best of batsmen appear like novices. He is so obsessed with delivering the results that he is not watching the ball all the way through. The concentration is on scoring runs to shut up the critics as opposed to the ball.
He would do well to remember that at the initial stage of his career he only saw the ball, and not the bowler or the track. Had he not done that then the magnificent 84 against McGrath & Co in his first appearance would not have been possible. Reverting back to this basic rule isn't that hard. Once he starts doing that boundaries will flow with the smoothness of silk and scores will be notched up at will.
If Yuvraj manages to do this, then along with Sachin he will be the lynch-pin of India's success in the upcoming World Cup. He would do well, to steer clear of any distraction either in form of praise or criticism to regain his regal stroke-play.
The whole nation will root for the charismatic Punjabi to replicate his heroics of the 2007 T20 world cup triumph. How soon he reverts back to the basics will answer how soon he will rediscover his mojo? Giving ifs and buts a miss, I expect him to deliver the goods in the World Cup. He is too good a player to fail for that long.