Yuvraj Singh has a serious career-defining decision to take - Harsha Bhogle.
Injuries, loss of form, stripped of Kings XI Punjab captaincy and the-slump-because-of-the-plump notwithstanding, Yuvraj Singh has some serious thinking (practising?) to do if he desires to be 'The Man' in at least the Indian Test line-up. His One-day and Twenty20 place cannot be questioned but the Test call-up is something that bothers me.
"I am personally not prepared to comment on whether Yuvraj should be picked or not; the real question for me is, are the selectors playing to the gallery and/or to special interests, or do they have a definite plan in mind?", said a furious Prem Panicker, aka Boss, when asked about Yuvi's inclusion.
That he is one of the cleanest strikers of the ball cannot be negated but his inability to play spin bowling remains a fact and Yuvraj has done little, almost nothing, to put a lid on the box. He was touted to fill Sourav Ganguly's shoes in the Test team but his inconsistent approach has seen him nowhere near it. Three years after a sensational outing at the ICC Knockout Championship, Yuvraj made it to the longer version of the game but failed miserably to keep his place. The Punjab batsman, recalled for the Tests against Sri Lanka, did not play a single domestic match last season - too much for a not-in-form struggling batsman.
"The 'Prince of Punjab' widely perceived as One-day specialist last played a Test for India almost a year ago. For someone who has played over 200 ODIs, it is surprising that Yuvraj has played just over 30 Tests and the reason being his inconsistency at the longer version of the game. His inclusion into the Test squad for the forthcoming tour comes as a surprise given his recent form and lack of fitness for which he was dropped from the Asia Cup squad. Like Yuvraj, one can say that the selection committee lacks consistency," opines Yahoo! cricket editor Ganesh AC.
The fitness part can be taken care of - look at veteran Rahul Dravid - but the attitude towards the game is one thing that Yuvi should be seriously focusing on. He no more looks hungry for runs. In the last couple of months, before being dropped for the Asia Cup, Yuvraj has shown little effort and seriousness in his pursuit for a permanent place in the One-day team - forget Tests.
"Yuvraj Singh debuted in Tests in October 2003 and has, till date, played 33 Tests - in other words, less than half the total number (71) of Tests India was played during that period. What is apparent from that set of figures is that he is by no means an established presence in the Test side; his infrequent appearances more often than not are the result of injuries to others, which see him enlisted to fill the breach. Against that, there is no doubt that he is an integral part of the Indian One-day squad, his recent lack of fitness and form notwithstanding", adds Prem.
The once upon a time best fielder in the Indian team, looks out of shape to start with. His much hyped fitness came under attack by coach Gary Kirsten - who claimed to be fitter than most of the players in the Indian camp after their disastrous World Twenty20 campaign. To say that injuries were responsible for his dip in form and fitness will be an overstatement. I don't care what he does off the field but when he is on field, Yuvi should be hitting and not be getting hit.
Here's the dichotomy I am (Prem) unable to understand: If Yuvraj was so lacking in fitness and form that he was not deemed fit for a One-day series, how then is it that two weeks later, he is deemed fit, both physically and in terms of form, for Test match cricket, a form that even when he was in prime One-day form he was not always considered for?
The selection is mysterious, to say the least; it may even be counter-productive - for if Yuvraj, who just two/three weeks ago was deemed unfit thanks to various injuries etc has not yet recovered full fitness and form and is however made to go through the grind of Test match cricket, he could actually aggravate whatever is wrong with him. A more sensible ploy would have been to get him to work on his fitness, nurse him back to form, and ensure that he is fully rehabilitated in time to play his role in India's World Cup campaign.
With serious contenders in Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma and Dinesh Karthik staking their claim for the middle-order, the Punjab left-hander's comeback path will be full of thorns.
At the age of 28, the Punjab southpaw has gone from bad to worse - on the cricket field, where it matters. The 'Comeback' term should not have been associated with the destructive left-hander, whose sheer name used to send a chill down the spine of bowlers - ask Stuart Broad.
In his last ten Tests, Yuvraj has faced opponents in England, New Zealand, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. The aggressive left-hander has not managed a century in those times, though coming close on two occasions against England.
All said and done by selectors, where does Yuvraj figure in India's scheme of things for the Test against Sri Lanka? With Tendulkar, Dravid and Laxman occupying the middle-order and Dhoni coming in at sixth - Yuvraj looks like just another passenger in the train, probably warming the benches. I think Indian selectors have gone with his reputation and rushed him back for the bad. What do you think?