In 2014 at the World Twenty20 final at Dhaka against Sri Lanka, Yuvraj Singh looked like a man, hopelessly out of touch with a game he once lorded over. He swung at the ball desperately and repeatedly, unable to make any contact. It was embarrassing to see a champion like him reduced to playing like this. Finally, after wasting 19 balls for his paltry 11 runs, he finally hit a full-toss straight down the throat of the long-off fielder.
Two years later, the setting was different and so was the scene. No, this was not a World Cup final, this was a dead rubber against a weakened Australian team. But for Yuvraj Singh, brought back into the team after that horror show in 2014, the pressure was perhaps unbearable. For two consecutive matches, he had waited patiently, hoping to have a go, to prove that he still belonged on this stage. That he could still hit them like he used to. That that 2014 match was just an aberration.
Yuvraj rolls back the years
He finally did get his chance in the last Twenty20 in Sydney on Sunday. India needed 51 runs in 31 balls when Yuvraj Singh walked in. A tough ask. And as he calmly defended away the first ball he faced, a sickening feeling of déjà vu started creeping over Indian fans.
Singh only got off the mark after three balls. On the fourth delivery he faced, he tried to pre-meditate a boundary but completely missed the ball. Off the penultimate over of India’s chase when India needed more than 20 runs to win, Yuvraj played out two dot balls and even took a single off the last ball of the over to keep strike. The vultures were circling. No one wanted to mention it but 2014 was suddenly very clear in everyone’s memory.
He had only scored five off nine agonising balls. And then he rolled back the years. One flick of the wrist. A boundary over fine leg. Then a majestic swat over the mid-wicket boundary for six runs – a Yuvraj trademark. Wisely, he then passed over the strike to Suresh Raina who knocked off the remaining runs and finished the match in style. As India jubilantly celebrated a 3-0 whitewash over Australia, one only needed to have a look at Yuvraj Singh’s relieved face to realise what those two shots had meant to him. Perhaps, finally, the scars of 2014 had been erased.
Confidence not complacency
This was a win India needed. Their wins in the last two Twenty20s had followed a similar format – the top-order batsmen would put up massive scores and then the spinners would apply the squeeze. This time though, there was a change. India’s top-order had fallen, well before the finishing line was in sight, much like in the fourth One Day International at Adelaide. Then, India had imploded spectacularly, losing nine wickets for 46 runs to lose the match.
But it will please captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni to no end that something similar did not happen this time. In fact, Suresh Raina played the perfect finisher’s knock to steer the team to victory, making a mockery of the selectors’ decision to keep him out of the ODI squad. The last piece of the jigsaw has now fallen into place – India look unbeatable in the Twenty20 format right now and very strong favourites for the upcoming World Twenty20 that is set to take place at home in March.
That does reflect in India’s rankings right now – they are currently top of the official ICC Twenty20 International rankings. But it would be wise to remain grounded, considering India were ranked eighth before this series. One swallow does not a summer make and one series win definitely does not mean that India can afford to become complacent ahead of a key tournament.
Third Twenty20: India (200/3 in 20 overs) beat Australia (197/5 in 20 overs) by seven wickets.