With the BCCI replacing injured Yuvraj Singh with Manish Pandey ahead of the World Twenty20 semifinal on Thursday in which India will take on the 2012 title winners West Indies, cricket watchers have already started wondering whether the southpaw is walking into the sunset after an illustrious career.
Singh, who has not cracked a big knock in the world T20 tournament so far, did nevertheless play an important role in building crucial partnerships with India’s in-form batsman Virat Kohli in group stage matches. The stylish left-hander was ruled out of the semifinal against West Indies after injuring his ankle in a do-or-die match against Australia on Sunday.
Hinting that Singh may have gone well past his prime, Chinmay Jawalekar wrote in CricketCountry – “There was a time when Yuvraj Singh's walk to the crease would send shivers down the spine in opposition ranks. His uninhibited striking, confident swagger and golden arm had made him India’s Talisman in the limited-overs.”
Jawalekar pointed out that India’s calendar for the next 18 months had around 17 test matches scheduled with only a few ODIs, tilting the equation against Singh, who fits best in the T20 format of the game.
“The only format where he fits into the scheme of things is T20, one that does not find a prominent place in India’s schedule,” he noted.
As soon as the news of his injury-forced ouster was out, Singh’s fans started lining up on the social media in his support.
Ever since his recovery from cancer in 2012, Singh has struggled to find his sublime rhythm, triggering speculations of an early retirement.
But the player had put rumours to rest in an interview to Wisden India in 2014, saying, “as long as I believe that I can come back and I have it in me, I’m going to keep pushing myself.”
The Punjab batsman, who won praises for his performance in the under-19 world cup in Sri Lanka in 2000, went on to become one of the most bankable players of the team under Saurav Ganguly’s captaincy with a match-winning knock with Mohammad Kaif, chasing 325 against England in the Natwest series final in July 2002 at Lord’s.
One of Singh’s glorious moments came in the winter of 2007 when the stylish batsman rewrote the record books and enthralled cricket lovers across the world when he hit six sixes of a Stuart Broad over during an India-England World T20 match in South Africa. But then, that was nine years ago and a lot has changed in the man and his game ever since.
“His reflexes are not as good as they used to be when he thrashed a young Stuart Broad for 6 sixes. At 34, he is not the same Yuvraj who took on Glenn McGrath and Co. in his maiden international outing with flair. If he is to make a comeback again, he will have to pass all these tests, or else, this may well be the end of the road for him,” Jawalekar added.
With Singh's ouster disturbing a settled batting line-up, India will have its fingers crossed when it takes on the flamboyant and spirited West Indies this week in what promises to be a battle of nerves.
The head-to-head record between the two rivals in past World Twenty20s is 2-1 in favour of the West Indies.
Kohli has been the biggest galvanising factor in India's progress this far. With his consistently excellent display in an otherwise misfiring top-order, he is the batsman that Windies will be wary of the most, apart from ever-reliable skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
(With PTI input)
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