How much does a six cost? For Yuvraj Singh it has meant a mini-revival and a seven-crore paycheque. His career could have been buried under lights at the famed SCG in Australia. The bat was flailing through the air, dot balls were piling up, the run-chase was getting out of the hand, his age was seemingly tripping him up, the Aussie commentators were almost sledging on air, and the experienced Shane Watson had that wry smile when he bowled two tight overs at Yuvraj.
Watson had resuscitated his career that day with a brutal hundred and so he would have intimately understood Yuvraj’s situation. The two even had a short chat, and shared a laugh at the end of the penultimate over. The inexperienced Andrew Tye had 17 runs to defend in the final over and it’s not known whether Watson had a word with him but everyone knew the only place not to bowl to Yuvraj was at his legs. Watson had just tied him up with his outside-off line but perhaps it was the yips, or a bizarre game plan, Tye decided it would be best to ping him on the legs.
Sometimes, just sometimes, when everything seems loaded against you as a batsman, you get lucky breaks like these. In an earlier era, Yuvraj’s pick up shot over backward square-leg would have been caught frame-by-frame in a flip book.
The knees bend, the right foot just about slides forward, the wrist-cock plunges the bat down in fluidly, and the hands rock across as if he is cradling a baby, and the ball whooshes in the air over backward square-leg. On his good days, it flies out for a six. That evening it wobbled away for a four but what it did for his confidence was immeasurable.
Tye must have seen that shot a few times on the telly before that day and perhaps fazed by it all, he followed it with more tripe. A full pitched hit-me ball, as they say, cuing up Yuvraj’s best attacking shot — that smooth golf-swing that sends the ball careening over a wide arc on the leg-side. It flew over midwicket for a six that brought India a win, and Yuvraj some breathing space. In some respects, sport is all about ifs and buts. What if Tye had bowled even length deliveries angling across Yuvraj that evening?
He didn’t of course, and within a couple of weeks, Yuvraj found himself with a fat cheque in IPL, and his name inked in the T20 World Cup squad.
Sometimes, that’s how it rolls. There he was on the outskirts of Pune on Monday evening, playing some football as part of a warm-up routine of the Indian team. The more one sees him, he reminds one of Garfield, the cat. The lazy sauntering here and there, the vacuous glare at far-distance as he has spotted a mermaid before he suddenly springs into action, dribbling a ball, or for that matter slipping a wide one to have Glenn Maxwell stumped as he did in that T20 series in Australia.
The question that might not be solved by the depleted Sri Lankan attack but it’s out there floating: Can Yuvraj be consistently good with his bat and pull India out of a Sydney-ish crisis in a big game in the World Cup? The games leading to the tournament will give us some sort of an idea.
The paycheque and that six wouldn’t have convinced everyone. You can see why India have trusted him at the vital No. 4 position. The good-case scenario is too tempting: big hitter who allows the batsmen that follow a license to be free-flowing and the smart left-arm slow bowler who provides his captain with pressure-relieving options.
But — there is always a but at this stage of his career — what if he just freezes up with the bat on the big day? It’s too early to convincingly say that he will come out and scythe good bowlers. All batsmen thrive on that ephemeral rhythm, Yuvraj more so. On days it flees him, he can be caught gasping.
The 2011 World Cup showed us what he is capable of. It was a dreamy tournament for him — he batted brilliantly, bowled smartly and a happy Yuvraj is great for the dressing room. That last trait was evident on Monday evening as well.
As ever, he did some monkeying around during training, had Ravindra Jadeja laughing uproariously at one point, and everyone seemed happy around him. He has that easy vibe about him, the intangible skill that captains appreciate. The question here, though, is whether he has that true self-confidence in his skills that he can pull India out of mini-crises with his bat. However good his bowling might be, his performance at No. 4 or No 5 is what will tilt India towards a win or a defeat.
One can only wait and watch, with hope and a prayer. It would be great if he rolls back the years and does a 2011 all over again but one shouldn’t be surprised if he fails. By the end of the T20 World Cup, one will end up thanking or blaming Andrew Tye for both those scenarios.