Vantage point

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Oldest Newcomer?

Sriram Veera has an article up at Cricinfo about Yuvraj Singh. It made me laugh. Not because there's anything wrong with the article. But because it reminded me of the biggest joke in the world of cricket - that anyone seriously thinks Yuvraj Singh is test cricket material. Ten years of international cricket, 7 years of test cricket, and two years years of a regular spot later, people still continue to treat Yuvraj like a newcomer. The oldest newcomer.

32 matches at an average of 36, with only 3 centuries, and even more damningly, only 8 half centuries. And this guy is still considered test material. And ambivalent articles like the one above are still being written about him. Such articles were written 2-3 years back too. And back then, you could at least understand their being written, even if you didn't agree with them, like I never did.

Until a couple of years back, I rated two Indian batsmen as being nowhere close to test material. Both left-handers. Yuvraj Singh and Gautam Gambhir. Their supporters said similar things. yes, he has potential, but in the last 3-4 years has been in and out of the team. Never got a long run in the team. So you can expect him to perform. I would counter saying even if they got a long run, their techniques were so flawed, and their willingness to apply themselves so lacking, that they will never succeed.

Gambhir has of course made me eat crow. Not just any crow, but the giant crows that Russian fairytales featured. He is the top ranked batsman in the world. Has made runs at home and abroad. And since getting a long run in the team, has actually grown, in technique as well as application. The numbers speak for themselves.

Since becoming a regular in the team two years back, Gambhir's average has gone from 37 to 58. With eight centuries and seven half centuries.

In roughly the same period, playing roughly the same number of test matches, Yuvraj has gone from 37 to 36, with 1 century and 5 fifties. His technique, if it were possible, has developed even more flaws. And in terms of application, he tends to get out when the team needs him the most. How long will he be treated like a newcomer?

Veera says -

It has been said before that Yuvraj doesn't grind his way through tough periods, that he is not willing to look ugly. That unlike MS Dhoni, who has converted himself from an attacking warrior to a foot solider, Yuvraj continues to fall prey to his "natural game".

Umm....really? The natural game defense? If only! Especially telling when compared with Dhoni. Yuvraj, the specialist batsman, averages 36 at a strike rate of 58. Dhoni, the wicket-keeper batsman, averages 40 at the strike rate of 62.

And it's not just the numbers. Anyone who has seen test cricket over the last 2 years will agree that Yuvraj's batting is way uglier than Dhoni at his most circumspect. Some players can use the "natural game" defense. Not Yuvraj.

Because plain and simple - his "natural game" is a shortsighted one. Perfectly suited to a spread-out field with no catchers and lots of gaps to take runs in. When he can just see off troubling bowlers and not face them for a full hour. He is perfect for ODIs and T20. And that's where he belongs.

Let us not take his limited over halo and build him up into something he will never be. It is not just about being caught between two modes or natural game or any such nonsense. He is just not good enough.

I will leave you with one more stat. Batting outside the subcontinent is considered a good metric for a batsman's worth. Yuvraj Singh has played 11 test matches outside the subcontinent, which includes two against Zimbabwe. In those 11 tests, batting in 18 innings, he has scored a piddly 283 runs with *****drumroll***** 1, yes, ONE half-century. That too, coming in the 2nd innings of the "Gambhir-owned" Napier test, scored well after the match was saved. In the first innings, when the chips were down and the pressure was on, he scored....yes, a very symmetric and luscious 0.

One half century in 11 tests in trying conditions. And this man is still considered for even selection in tests? While Badrinath, Pujara, Vijay, etc. have to keep playing domestic cricket. Let's laugh. Or cry.