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Who’s in line anyway?

Out-of-sorts Yuvraj opens door for aspirants who must treat the IPL as a golden chance.

Written by Shamik Chakrabarty | Kolkata | Updated: April 10, 2014 11:22 am
Yuvraj’s misery could be an opportunity for, among others. (AP) Yuvraj’s misery could be an opportunity for, among others. (AP)

Yuvraj Singh’s long walk back after bring dismissed for 11 off 21 balls in the final of the World T20 is still fresh in the minds of the dejected Indian fan. But when the seventh edition of the Indian Premier League is to begin in less than 10 days after the world event, there is hope of a turnaround in fortunes for the batsman.

However, the sighting of an opening in the Indian middle-order will steel those who believe they are contenders to take the spot, which is up for grabs because of the shaky form for Yuvraj.

Ambati Rayudu will habour aspirations of being a more regular member of the Indian team. So will Manoj Tiwary and Saurabh Tiwary and Cheteshwar Pujara among others.

But dreams can transform into reality only with performance, in this case runs. And there is no quicker route to success and to catch the selectors’ attention than excelling in the Indian Premier League.

Pujara was included in the squad for the Asia Cup but didn’t get a game. Manoj and Saurabh have fallen off the radar for different reasons and now bank on a successful IPL-7 to resurrect their careers.

Spare a thought for Virender Sehwag as well. The attacking opener is out of the Indian team and has been struggling for consistency. Delhi Daredevils didn’t retain him and uncertainty loomed over his IPL career briefly before Kings XI Punjab decided to hand him a Rs 3.2 crore contract. With the World Cup less than a year away, this IPL might determine Sehwag’s Team India future.

“I’m looking forward to this IPL. I will bat the way I like to bat — go there and smash it, and leave the bowlers scared,” Sehwag said on the KXIP Hangout.

Coach Sanjay Bangar said they would try to help the opener return to form. “Initially we thought about making him (Sehwag) the captain but eventually decided against it to allow him to play with complete freedom. This is a new franchise for him and he struggled for form in domestic cricket. So we appointed George Bailey as our captain,” Bangar told his Hangout audience.

See ball, hit ball: Pujara

Pujara, on the other hand, hoped he would be getting more opportunities. “I didn’t get enough opportunity at Kolkata Knight Riders and Royal Challengers Bangalore. Hopefully I will get more opportunities for Kings XI Punjab.”

But does he find the transition to limited-overs format a little difficult? “Not really. If the ball is there to be hit, I will hit. With experience and practice you get better in this format. I’ve also played a few ODIs and the experience will help,” said Pujara.

Away in Kolkata, Manoj Tiwary was preparing for a “make or break” IPL. He last played for India in September 2012. Back spasm had ruled him out of the home ODI series against Pakistan and England in early 2013, then a knee injury that he picked up while playing football at the Kalighat Club ground in July last year robbed him of the entire Ranji season.

Tiwary returned for the Vijay Hazare Trophy and also the played the East Zone leg of the Mushtaq Ali T20 tournament but looked rusty. For the next two months he would be playing for Delhi Daredevils and the 28-year-old needs to hit the ground running soon.

“Yes, this is going to be a very, very important IPL for me. I’ve moved to Delhi Daredevils and it allows me to play under the guidance of Gary Kirsten, which I consider a privilege. Also, our captain Kevin Pietersen has always been my batting hero,” Tiwary said, speaking to The Indian Express.

Saurabh, Manoj’s Delhi Daredevils team mate, is on the same boat. He had a fantastic Ranji season with 854 runs at 65.69. The 24-year-old from Jharkhand also had a decent Vijay Hazare Trophy with 155 runs in five matches at 51.66. But as far as international cricket is concerned he too is now playing a catch-up.

A successful IPL for Mumbai Indians in 2010 had brought him into prominence. An India call-up followed, but Saurabh was dumped after three ODIs. Still pretty young, he now looks forward to this IPL to turn the corner.

“I had a good season for Jharkhand but playing for smaller states does not put you in the spotlight. The IPL allows the players to be in the spotlight. It’s a boon for the small-town boys. I’ve always been scoring runs in domestic cricket but IPL gave me prominence,” Saurabh said.

Punjab middle-order batsman Mandeep Singh, Karnataka’s Manish Pandey, and teammate Robin Uthappa too will hope to advance their India hopes by playing well in the IPL. The brightest star could be 19-year-old Sanju Samson, who has been retained by Rajasthan Royals.

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