There was never any doubt over Yuvraj Singh's place in the starting XI, says Indian captain
Yuvraj Singh has been under the microscope for the last couple of days, with a few suggestions that he, and not Virender Sehwag, should have been rested in India’s previous ICC World Twenty20 2012 game against Australia. Yuvraj has only recently recovered from germ-cell cancer and questions had been raised both about his physical fitness and his match readiness. On Sunday night against Pakistan, Yuvraj answered all those questions with a sparkling all-round display – 2 for 16 from three overs, a trademark direct hit to score a run-out, and an unbeaten 19 off 16 in an easy chase.
“Yuvi was already in the team, it wasn’t even a consideration whether he would play or not,” said Mahendra Singh after the eight-wicket win that kept Indian hopes alive. “Especially when we play with seven batsmen, the part-timers’ role becomes important. Virat (Kohli) is an option but it is also a very good option to have a left-arm spinner, someone who takes the ball away from the right-hand batsman. Everyone knows Yuvraj is a very good fielder, and today he effected a good run-out too. If we play with four bowlers, it will be difficult to keep Yuvraj out of the team. And the way he batted today, it will give him a lot of confidence.”
Dhoni also said Yuvraj’s fitness was no cause for concern. “As far as this format is concerned, he looks very fit,” he said. “He has done a lot in the last few months. It’s not like he is playing straightaway in the Twenty20 World Cup. Before this, he spent a lot of time at the National Cricket Academy and played a bit of active domestic cricket, a few Twenty20 games. I am not really concerned about his fitness. As I said, this batting performance will give him a lot of confidence because even if you are playing domestic cricket, you don’t get the bowlers who bowl at the international level. All these matches, he will take a lot of positives out of them and we all know that once he gets going, he is a terrific batsman to have in the side.”
India overhauled Pakistan’s 128 with three overs to spare. Had it won with 19 balls or more to spare, it would have jumped into second place behind Australia on net run-rate, a factor that might come into consideration to decide the second semi-finalist from the group. “The last few overs, the way Virat and Yuvraj batted, they tried to play the big strokes,” Dhoni said. “We play so many games, all the batsmen are experienced enough. Virat has played quite a few games, Yuvraj is a very experienced guy. Once they were in and they knew that even if we lost a couple of wickets we would still win the game, then they went after the bowlers and scored the runs. Looking at the wicket, it would have been a bit difficult if you still needed 50 to 60-odd runs and tried to get them in five or six overs. If you lose a few wickets, the pressure suddenly mounts. I think it was the right decision, they batted really well.”
The Premadasa pitch, Dhoni said, hadn’t been easy to bat on. “The wicket was a bit slow, initially we saw that the new ball was coming on to the bat but it was a bit two-paced,” he said. “There were a few balls that didn’t bounce much and some shot up. Their plan was to cash in on the new ball, that’s why they sent Shahid bhai (Afridi) up the order. For us, the good thing was that we got wickets at regular intervals. In any format, getting wickets is crucial. After 10 to 12 overs, the batsmen are in two minds whether to go all out on attack or not. I think Pakistan must have targeted 135 to 140, but our bowlers bowled well, so they couldn’t reach even 130.”