11 February 2008

A question of seniority

Even after TM's extreme brashness, I was not entirely convinced and wanted the mood turned back down to "dour". And where do I go to, if I need some circumspection. Well, Soulberry, of course! And something that he wrote has got me thinking about the "continuing rise of India"

Yuvraj Singh is an 'icon' in the IPL galaxy. He is also closing in on 200 matches. Yesterday, he played his 197th - a hundred matches more than his captain, and a few more than Sehwag and Bhajji. He is second only to Tendulkar in terms of experience and close to 2500 runs more than anyone else in the middle order. All this makes him, decisively, a "senior player".

It is not easy to evaluate a senior player. On the one hand, there is the vast experience of playing in several different conditions and situations. On the other, it is no longer a case of holding promise for the future. It is a balance of these two questions that is keeping Anil Kumble, VVS, Dravid and Ganguly out of the one-day tem. No doubt they are "blue chip", as Bhogle is so fond of saying, but the future was a different place where athleticism was at least as important as the quality of the forward defence, and these guys just did not have enough of it. Yuvraj Singh, on the other hand, was the prototype for the future - fabulously talented and supremely agile. Enough to merit greater generosity than the BCCI has shown anyone.

But now that the future is here, Yuvraj does not look so superhuman. His captain who bats lower than him, keeps wickets and is fitter and more agile than him, but much less talented with the bat, averages seven more runs than him every match and six more runs than him, every hundred balls. There is no doubt who has been the most consistent among the two. Rohit Sharma and Gambhir are looking more solid and more composed. Still, there is no doubt about the Yuvraj Singh's eye and timing, and an unparalleled ability to change the direction of a match.

But somewhere down the line, the selectors will need to be critical. If the selectors are honest with themselves, they will know that the "future" is here and ability has not transformed into a good, consistent batsman. Raina, Karthik and Kaif are knocking on the doors and saying, "Look, we may not be as talented, but we are paisa vasool". Tewary is saying that he is the "new future", and he should be given a longer stint in the team, for the sake of "promise".

But to end on the same happy note that TM left us, despite all of Yuvraj's failures, Uthappa is yet to have a knock. Or is that really a happy note?


TM said...


There is no question of Yuvraj being a senior player and owing more performances than he currently produces. Maybe the selectors have given him too long a rope, maybe not - the problem seems to be twofold - first, whenever they want to hang him, he wields his 'blade' like an experienced and very talented 'jallaad' and cuts through that rope in unparalleled style. Second, whenever he goes back to domestic cricket, he nonchanantly beats the living daylights out of domestic attacks, to the extent that he looks bored and the attacks look hapless - a circumstance that once again merits his inclusion in the national side. It is a conundrum that is going to confound the selectors for sometime to come - what we need is one of those hindi movie scenarios where one act makes the hero realize that it is time to stop being a kid and to grow up. BTW, it is my opinion that he is not technically equipped to play test cricket and should only form part of the one-day team

Soulberry said...

John, you are right about the board having nurtured him. They did the right thing by identifying the talent and staying with it. (I might have been happier if they had insisted Yuvraj plays a certain number of games every year in the domestic season).

The flaws in his game have remained as they are over the years while his devastating ability too has remained unchanged. Also unchanged is his moodiness and inconsistency. Just when we think the ECG line is going flat, it will jump to life and turn into a flutter.

We need him...India has invested in him...but he is not indispensible if he fails to provide the returns consistently.

Consistency o9f course doesn't have to be every innings, but something befitting the talent of the man.

Next year, he could be stale bread if he continues this way. No longer freshly baked...no longer a day older but still soft enough, no longer a couple of days older but fungusless and still edible...the mold will begin to show.

It is up to him..maybe he is satisfied with what he has done and is doing, and also figures there is still a long future with all this leagues coming up (though I suspect he'll just up and quit cricket one day...no league stuff for him beyond a point....he feels the type who will not be willing to play a sweaty game at 32 unless the rewards of it are far greater than now).

Today is that future we all were talking about till perhaps a year ago. This phase will also last for a charitable year or two if things remain as they are...then...one will have to be even-handed.

Unless he rustles himself up to serious cricket, he may not have the kind of support Saurav found in making a comeback, or the support Laxman finds when his neck perpetually appears to be on the chopping block...

John said...

One point which Soulberry has made is that Yuvraj has been carried with the team for ten years, warming the benches for the Test squad. It happened with Kaif too, but happily he is not currently in the scheme of things. Yuvraj, as against Kaif or even the likes of Uthappa, Gambhir and DK does not have the experience of playing a high-stakes Ranji campaign. Which is why I believe that we are at the last possible opportunity to get Yuvraj to become a good Test bat. Those things you say about Yuvi's first class career aren't entirely true. The mark of a truly dominant Indian batsman in first class cricket should be an average of close to 50 (Sachin, Dravi, Laxman, even Pankaj Dharmani, Gautam Gambhir etc. etc.) . Yuvi averages 43 from 122 innings. I say let him play an entire Ranji campaign for Punjab.Maybe even as captain.

scorpicity said...

Nice points brought out John... if this is the proto-type they are looking for then raina should be in.

I think Yuvi will be fine if he is brought down to earth once in a while... somebody has to bring out that kinky whip.

John said...

Scorpi, I see you have some ideas on how to implement the 'tough love' doctrine.

Naked Cricket said...

on an equally dour note, some black humour on "Men in Blue Chip" -

Anonymous said...

Keeping in with the tradition of regional biases influencing opinion on this blog.. i shall venture out to say something in defence of Yuvraj Singh.

I remember reading an article by Ian Chappell calling for the retirement of Sachin Tendulkar near about the last world cup when Tendulkar was batting at no. 4 and was not looking his usual aggressive self and was not scoring as prolifically as he had been used to either.

Chappell's argument at that time was that tendulkar has had a magnificent career, and throughout his career he has played his natural game, which is to dominate attacks. However, at that time, Chappell felt that tendulkar had suddenly gone into a shell and was not looking to dominate anymore. He then considered tendulkar's batting statistics over the period he was talking about and found that he was not doing so bad as compared to his other contemporaries, and in any case was doing better than any of the indian batsmen. Yet, Chappell felt, that tendulkar should retire because he was only a shadow of his formal self, and even though his shadow was still good enough to be a good international player, there were too many good international players around who'd do the same job than to see tendulkar reduced to being one of them.

I found that comment interesting, because it took the focus away from the hard statistics that still seemed to favour tendulkar at the time, and placed it upon the value that the demolition attitude brought to the team. The loss of that value was sufficient for Chappell to argue that Tendulkar should retire.

Now I understand that Chappell’s comment could be understood to have been spoken from Tendulkar’s personal perspective as a great player, and not from the perspective of the value he still brought to the team. Yet, the point I am trying to draw from his argument is that the ability to demolish an attack is an ability that is not the domain of your “paisa vasool” player.

Transmuting this point to the Yuvraj scenario, what I feel is that its true Yuvraj might not have the statistics to back his billing of being a modern great (unlike Tendulkar, and even the less talented Dravid and Ganguly). Yet, the lack of statistics should not allow us to pass a judgment on him too quickly. Taking John’s argument regarding Yuvraj now being a senior head on, contrary to what everyone on this blog is arguing, Yuvraj’s statistics point exactly in the direction that he was anticipated to go, though not to the same extent (perhaps). Yuvraj’s batting average year by year is as follows:

2000 21.66
2001 23.80
2002 36.61
2003 31.57
2004 30.03
2005 41.95
2006 53.06
2007 45.96

The pattern I see from the above is that suddenly after 2004, Yuvraj has made a leap into a higher league, though the numbers by themselves may not be so impressive. But then again, that is what statistics are all about - Yuvraj’s average of 41 can hardly be compared to Dravid’s average of 41, because both will have a completely different impact on a game.

So, without taking anything away from the fact that Yuvraj has just not performed in this series, and has looked like a sparrow in a swimming pool, let us not draw conclusions on how the Yuvraj vision has all gone for a six, and that he seems to perform only when he is about to be dropped.

pervy said...

sorry john.. the anonymous comment was me.. cudnt figure how to publish it under my name

John said...

Good stuff, Pervy, point taken. Hopefully those averages will take the slow crawl up.
Yuvraj was one of the best ODI batsmen in the world in 2006 and well into 2007, but his value to the side must not stop at playing dazzling innings' when he is in form. If he were a decent Test bat, he would be able to squeeze out a 50-run partnership even when he is woefully out of form. Which is why I feel that he needs to complete the education that he was vaulted over. There is still time for him to become the grrreat batsman that he can be.

John said...


Also a few choice words on topic at The Cricket Watchers Journal: