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Why the selectors are wrong to recall Yuvraj to the ODI squad

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© Yuvraj Singh Facebook

Why the selectors are wrong to recall Yuvraj to the ODI squad

With the Champions Trophy on the horizon, Yuvraj Singh's selection into India's ODI squad on the grounds of domestic form might affect India's future chances. Despite being the match-winner for India for over a decade, the southpaw, who is a shadow of his former self, is not a good sign for India.

Being a fan of his batting for many years, it was great for me to see Yuvraj Singh, India's hero of 2007 and 2011 World Cups, back in the Indian national team after winning a battle against life-threatening cancer in late 2012. Though India lost that match against New Zealand, the crowd in Chennai had cheered every single run he scored in his innings of 34 runs from 26 balls. From the hunger in his eyes, it was evident that he wanted to continue being India's match-winner, and everyone thought it would be a story of a phoenix rising from the ashes.

On the contrary, the talented southpaw's journey went downhill. In the next few years, there was an air of apprehension around him whenever he came to bat. Many could feel that there was also an element of self-doubt when we saw him walk away in frustration after India's innings in 2014 World T20 final.

And now when we see someone like MS Dhoni relinquish his role as India's captain to prolong his playing career until 2019 World Cup, are the selection committee taking a step backward in bringing back Yuvraj into the ODI side?

The major point made by chief selector MSK Prasad was Yuvraj's recent domestic form. “We should appreciate the way Yuvi has played in domestic cricket. He played some fantastic innings, he got a double hundred, he got 180 in the Lahli wicket. We appreciate it and have given him a chance,” Prasad explained the selection. 

 © Yuvraj Singh Facebook

To his credit, the left-hander has scored 672 runs in just five matches for Punjab at a staggering average of 84.  Agreed, that it is not easy for a batsman to score 177 on a tough wicket such as Lahli, and scoring his highest score of 260 in domestic cricket against Baroda is also commendable. Even in his final innings for Punjab this season, Yuvraj scored a determined 85 at Hyderabad which helped his team in beating Uttar Pradesh. It would be unfair not to laud his determination and never-give-up attitude, but should and can he warrant a continued role in the side?

It is three years since Yuvraj last played in an ODI match for India. And since his comeback on December 30, 2012 against Pakistan, the middle-order batsman has scored just 278 runs in 19 ODI games at an average of 18.53. These include just two fifties, 4 single-digit scores and four ducks. Owing to these performances, it isn't a surprise that he was repeatedly snubbed a place in the ODI team.

 © Yuvraj Singh Facebook

However, he has featured in the Indian T20 side regularly having played 32 games including two World T20s in 2014 and 2016 recording an average close to 30. While his vast experience as a T20 specialist makes him a useful player to have in the shortest format, Yuvraj still remains a liability in 50-overs cricket for numerous reasons. 

MS Dhoni, now free of the captaincy pressure, will mostly likely feature in the No.4 position forcing Yuvraj to come in at positions that have been unfamiliar to him for a long time. With Ajinkya Rahane's place cemented in the Indian middle-order, Yuvraj's place might mostly be at No.6 which comes with an added responsibility to start hitting from the first ball. For people who have seen him play over the years, it is a known fact that Yuvi is not a perfect fit for the pinch-hitter's role.

While he possesses strength playing against spin bowling, being dismissed by spinner James Tredwell for four times in a row in his last series against England will have the likes of Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali rubbing their hands in anticipation until next week. The left-hander's growing weaknesses against pace bowling were also evident from his recent performances at the World T20 where he struggled against Shane Watson and Wahab Riaz. Once considered to be dangerous against any bowling attack, it should be noted that Yuvraj's powers are waning on the big stage making him a weak link in the team for the Champions Trophy which is to be played on the fast swinging pitches of England. And with Yuvraj's last visit of the English soil coming way back in 2008, his selection will only hamper India's chances to defend their title.

 © Getty

But the biggest question is around Yuvi's age. At 35 years, how many years can we expect him to contribute at the highest level? Is it so hard for the selectors to find young talent on the domestic scene that it made them turn towards Yuvraj?

Rishabh Pant, who is on a roll in the Ranji Trophy by scoring 972 runs at an average of 81, could have easily been given that place in the One-day side seeing that he has been selected for the Indian T20I side. It was even more surprising that Karun Nair was overlooked for the limited-overs' team despite scoring a brilliant triple-century against England in the final Test at Chennai. With the Champions Trophy looming, the selectors could have even experimented with the technically-gifted Shreyas Iyer who averages 52 in the first-class cricket. When there are multiple options to pick from India's younger crop, the selection of a 35-year old batsman with a future aim to defend the Champions Trophy seems to be an error on the part of selectors.

By the time the next World Cup commences in 2019, Yuvraj will be 38-years old. Despite all his heroics in the previous World Cups, it will be hard for anyone to imagine him playing in the tournament. If someone as good as Sourav Ganguly can be axed for the long-term greater good when he was 34-years old and among the world's top-5 runscorers in 2007, isn't it fair to, with a heavy heart, say No to Yuvraj and give an early chance to the younger generation of players?

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