Yuvraj Singh may have opted out of the captains’ press conference ahead of India A’s ODI series against the West Indies A, but coach Lalchand Rajput on Saturday was at pains to impress upon the gathering that he had never seen the talented southpaw hungrier for a comeback into the big league.
Yuvraj’s well-documented and triumphant battle against cancer, and his subsequent return to match-fitness, is likely to form an intriguing sidelight whenever he turns out on the cricket field, and the latest series is no exception.
“He is very keen to get back into the Indian team and has really worked on his fitness. He is a match-winner and has a lot of cricket left in him. We have a lot of expectations from him,” said Rajput.
Handed over the reins of the A team for three ODIs and a Twenty20 against the Caribbeans – all to be played at the M. Chinnaswamy here – Yuvraj is one of the centerpieces of the home side.
But he is not alone on the list of seasoned names on the comeback trail.
In its latest avatar, India A includes Robin Uthappa and Yusuf Pathan, both looking to don national colours again after falling out of favour.
Uthappa, a veteran of 38 ODIs, last played for India over five years ago, but has had a string of good scores with the A side recently. Pathan, a burly big-hitting all-rounder, has 57 ODI caps and last represented the country in March 2012, in the Asia Cup in Bangladesh.
Irfan, Praveen injured
Other players to watch out for include young Unmukt Chand, who led the Under-19 team to World Cup glory last year and has been ticking along quite nicely since. He scored 164 runs at an average of 48 in three ODIs against New Zealand A recently.
The home team, however, suffered a couple of injury jolts on Saturday morning when medium-pacers Praveen Kumar and Irfan Pathan were ruled out, although the nature of the injuries was not specified.
The pair has been replaced by Punjab fast bowler Siddharth Kaul and local boy Vinay Kumar, who was also a part of India’s recent tour of Zimbabwe.
For the West Indies A team, the series provides a chance for their youngsters to rub shoulders with a clutch of big stars, something that was reaffirmed by coach Junior Bennett in a largely indecipherable accent.
“This is an important series for us because India A are a strong team. Some of them are established international players and it will be a tough tournament for us.”
On his captain Kieran Powell, a 23-year-old who has three centuries from 15 Tests, Bennett said, “He is very young and is viewed as a future leader of the senior team. We are grooming him for that role.”
The visitors also include familiar faces such as all-rounder Andre Russell, wicket-keeper Devon Thomas and left-arm spinner Nikita Miller.
Hosts Karnataka State Cricket Association, meanwhile, announced that entry for the public would be free for the entire tour, including for the four-day games to be played at Mysore, Shimoga and Hubli.
The squads, India A: Yuvraj Singh (Capt.), Unmukt Chand, Robin Uthappa, Baba Aparajith, Kedar Jadhav, Naman Ojha, Yusuf Pathan, Siddharth Kaul, Jaydev Unadkat, Vinay Kumar, Sumit Narwal, Shahbaz Nadeem, Mandeep Singh, Rahul Sharma.
West Indies A: Kieran Powell (Capt.), Veerasammy Permaul, Ronsford Beaton, Nkrumah Bonner, Jonathan Carter, Sheldon Cottrell, Miguel Cummins, Narsingh Deonarine, Kirk Edwards, Andre Fletcher, Leon Johnson, Nikita Miller, Ashley Nurse, Andre Russell, and Devon Thomas.