Yuvraj Singh hadn’t played an ODI in England since 2007 and he had missed both the practice matches in the prelude to the ICC Champions Trophy for India against Pakistan on Sunday. And yet when he came out to bat against Pakistan on Sunday, there were no signs of uneasiness or hesitation from Yuvraj. His 53 runs from 32 balls took India from a comfortable position to a dominant place.
Skipper Virat Kohli lauded Yuvraj for his inning and said that it was a game-changer. “The way Yuvi batted, it was the game-changing innings, to be honest. That gave all of us the confidence to start striking the ball well,” he said in the post-match press conference.
When Yuvraj came to the crease, Rohit Sharma had fallen by the wayside and India were 192/2 in 36.5 overs putting the run rate at 5.33. By the time he walked back, India had accumulated 93 runs more (285/3 from 46.2 overs) and lifted the run rate to 6.19. Eventually, India scored 319/3 with Kohli (81* from 68 balls) and Hardik Pandya (20* from 6 balls) accelerating at the death. In response, Pakistan only saw good batting display from Azhar Ali while none of the other batsmen provided a strong enough challenge to India’s bowling. India thus ran out victorious by 124 runs.
Kohli lauded Yuvraj for his approach and confidence in taking on the bowlers from the word go. “The way he batted was the way only he can strike the ball. Hitting low full-tosses for fours and sixes, and even digging out yorkers for fours, was outstanding,” said Kohli.
Kohli admitted that it was getting increasingly difficult to settle down amid rain interruptions. With the rain delay in the 34th over, Kohli was continuing to find feet by picking up singles and doubles and rotating strike. But he was not getting the acceleration at the stage. “I think till 40, I was easing into the game, taking my ones and twos like I always do. I could not go for the big ones because it was tricky. We went off about four times. And we came back in, and so as a player who likes to play the long innings till the end and usually plays like that for the team, it becomes very difficult to find momentum every time you come back and all you got to do is play yourself in again,” Kohli said.
Yuvraj’s arrival at the crease changed things around in the game as Kohli acknowledged that it gave him the confidence to settle down better. “When Yuvi came in, we didn’t go back out again. So, he started striking from ball one and, as I said, that took pressure off me, and maybe I should have given him strike.”
“That really deflated the opposition and that gave me a bit of time to settle in from the other end. When he got out, I took over. But I think his innings was a difference in the game.”
Kohli said three-out-of-five-times, Yuvraj will a match changing knock and that is what justifies his selection into the team. “If he plays like that you know the team is always in a good space because you can really rely on him to come in and just play a match-changing innings, more often than not. And he will end up doing it three out of five times. That’s why we back him at that spot,” said the India captain.