MIRPUR - As he took off his helmet, tucked his bat under his arm and trudged back to the pavilion after a 19-ball struggle in the World Twenty20 on Sunday, Yuvraj Singh looked a shadow of the talismanic all-rounder who delivered two World Cups for India.
The dashing southpaw hitting England fast bowler Stuart Broad for six sixes in an over remains the defining moment of India's victory in the inaugural World Twenty20 in 2007.
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His player-of-the-tournament performance helped India win the 50-over World Cup in Mumbai four years later, and he showed his battling qualities off the pitch too by overcoming a cancerous lung condition.
But it has not all been plain sailing.
Yuvraj, who has been dumped from India's one-day side, managed just one run and conceded 13 off his only over in India's opening World Twenty20 match against Pakistan.
And it was another forgettable outing on Sunday against defending champions West Indies.
He dropped explosive opener Chris Gayle in the deep and was not even required to bowl his left-arm spin, a weapon which proved crucial in India's 50-over World Cup victory in 2011.
When he came in to bat, Yuvraj struggled to middle the ball and was dismissed after a laboured 10. Needing five runs from two overs with eight wickets in hand, India eventually won with two balls to spare.
Fortunately for Yuvraj, India won both matches with ease and captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni is willing to be patient with him.
"Yuvraj is perhaps the best player in Twenty20. You can say he's not in his rhythm but it's always tough after you've been dropped from ODI side and return in Twenty20," Dhoni said after the victory against defending champions West Indies.
"There is invariably some pressure on an individual returning to the side. It takes a couple of games at least.
"We are only hoping that he gets a good match. We all know the kind of match-winner he is. He can really turn the game around on his own."
Dhoni conceded he had to make a choice between improving the net run rate and giving Yuvraj some batting time but felt he made the right decision in the end.
"I'm glad that he got a bit of time (in the middle) because it will only settle his nerves and we all know how dangerous he can be," Dhoni said.
"Once he gets going, he'll give many more victories. If Yuvi comes back and bats really well, it would be a good asset to have at number four."
BENCH-WARMER TO MATCH-WINNER
In spinner Amit Mishra, Dhoni has already seen how a captain's backing can change a player.
The chubby 31-year-old legspinner from Delhi has transformed from bench warmer to match winner with back-to-back man-of-the-match performances on Mirpur's spin-friendly tracks.
Mishra has credited his captain for showing faith in him, but Dhoni said he only told the spinner to express himself freely in the middle.
"It's important that people bowl or bat according to their strength," Dhoni said. "I personally felt he was feeling a bit of nerve in the first game against Pakistan.
"I just went up and told him: 'You are known for turning the ball, you're someone who flights the ball, varies the pace. You've variations. So just don't keep bowling the straighter one or try to bowl just back of a length so that batsmen can't hit'.
"I told him: 'Your bigger strength will be to flight the ball and use that extra bit of bite in deceiving the batsmen'. I was really comfortable with the way he bowled after that.
"After the first game, I knew he was still not bowling at his 100 percent, he still had nerves to overcome. I knew with that man-of-the-match performance, his performance in the coming games will get better and better.
"There will be odd games where, like other bowlers, he would also get hit but it's important that he backs his strength and his strength will always be using the flight and using the variations that he has got," added Dhoni.
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