Yuvraj Singh’s stop-start Test career has hit another roadblock after he was dropped from India’s squad for the third and final match of the series against West Indies. Rohit Sharma, who has been in good form for Mumbai in the early part of the Ranji Trophy season, has replaced Yuvraj in the squad.
Yuvraj’s scores in the Test series against West Indies read 23, 18 and 25 for an aggregate of 66 runs at an average of 22, which is by far the lowest among India’s batsmen. Yuvraj has been troubled by the West Indies bowling attack and his weakness and inability to face the fast bowlers thanks to weaknesses in his technique were again ruthlessly exploited and exposed, more so in the second Test at Kolkata.
This has been the story of Yuvraj’s Test career where he has routinely struggled against quality seam and spin bowling. Yuvraj has played only 37 Test matches for India since he made his debut in the longest version of the game against New Zealand in October 2003. In those matches, Yuvraj has scored only 1775 runs, including three centuries in 57 innings at an average of 34.80 – these are figures that hardly inspire confidence for a batsman who bats at the pivotal number 6 position.
While the presence of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman and Sourav Ganguly in India’s middle-order ensured Yuvraj would have to sit out of most Tests India played through much of the last decade; he has been unable to cement his place in the team even after Ganguly’s retirement. And, bad form coupled with fitness issues paved the way for Suresh Raina to score a century on his Test debut. As a result, Yuvraj was again forced out of the team until the Nottingham Test against England, but he sustained a finger injury in that match and failed to grab his chances against West Indies.
Ironically, India captain MS Dhoni publicly backed Yuvraj before the squad for the Mumbai Test was announced as he said: “At the end of the day, it’s about scoring runs. It does not matter where you got hit or where you scored runs. Yes, he is going through a tough phase but it’s important to show confidence in him. We all know he is talented. He has played really well against all the big bowlers especially in the ODI format which means he has talent to do well in Test formats as well.” The selectors fortunately opted to disagree with Dhoni’s argument and instead chose to axe Yuvraj and reward Sharma. This could also be an indication that Yuvraj may not be chosen in India’s Test squad for the tour of Australia.
Yuvraj is a terrific batsman in one-day cricket and controls India’s middle-order admirably where his big-hitting and positive approach coupled with restrictions on the number of short deliveries that can be bowled make him a handful for opposition bowlers and captains alike in the 50-over format. This is the tough question that Yuvraj needs to ask himself – whether he wants to continue struggling in Tests and be forced to stage comebacks aplenty or if he takes a leaf out of former Australia batsman Michael Bevan’s book and opts to focus solely on the shorter formats of the game where he is more at home even in away conditions.
He has said time and again that he wants to establish himself as a Test cricketer, but it is becoming increasingly obvious that the weaknesses in his technique may just ensure that Yuvraj’s dream goes unfulfilled. His forte lies in the shorter formats of the game and Yuvraj, who turns 30 on December 12, is fast running out of time and chances to establish himself as a Test cricketer, especially with the emergence of promising youngsters like Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Sharma and Cheteshwar Pujara.