Yuvraj gets ready for 'Test' of character

Ahmedabad, Nov. 15 -- Yuvraj Singh couldn't have imagined a better comeback script considering how he returned from cancer treatment into the India team for the World Twenty20. However, the moment the player would have most keenly awaited will arrive on Thursday at the Sardar Patel Stadium. As a limited-overs cricketer, his career had touched great heights. If anything rankled in him, it was his inability to break the code in Test cricket.

Before his illness forced a break from cricket, he was in danger of being written off as a Test player.

His failures last year at home against West Indies when he got out for 23, 18 and 25 in the first two Tests seemed to be the last straw for there were already question marks over his ability to tackle swing and top-quality spin.

Mental strength

On Thursday, he will be playing his first Test since November 2011. His technical problems have been linked to his temperament than any weakness in his game.

It is widely believed that if he's better focused, he can easily overcome the issues he has against spinners and the moving ball for there are few more gifted batsmen than the Punjab left-hander.

Those who have worked with him closely since his comeback say the biggest gain for the batsman from the tough experience of having to deal with illness is that he is calmer and more focused. And, with cricket being such a mind game, it should help him.

Aggressive player

"He is an aggressive character. He is someone who wants to perform at the top level, which is Test cricket," said skipper, MS Dhoni on Wednesday.

"I feel his contribution will be very important. He is quite intimidating when he bats. If you see his good innings, he can really dominate."

Dhoni said Yuvraj brings more than just batting to the park. On helpful wickets, his role as a part-time spinner lends balance to the team.

"He bats at No 5 or 6, (and) his left-arm spin is very crucial for us as we don't have a genuine all-rounder, and more often than not we play four bowlers. So it's important that the part-timers contribute; especially during that phase when the ball gets old and you are waiting to take the new ball.

You can't use your fast bowlers and you don't want your spinners to get really tired because, even with the new ball, they come into play after just 10 overs.

"When you attack, you attack as a unit. Especially in the sub-continent, the part-timers become more effective. You get a bit of turn and the ball stops and comes."

Fitness worry

The only doubt is whether Yuvraj has gained enough fitness to last the rigours of five-day cricket, which Dhoni himself pointed out recently.

But the skipper didn't seem to have much doubt anymore. "To score a double hundred (in the Duleep Trophy last month) requires lot of fitness, so he looks in good shape," he said.

"He is not starting with this tour; he was part of the WT20. He has got a fair amount of exposure to international cricket before this. He is a strong character. Ultimately, he knows it's all about cricket. He will be up for it."

Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.


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