Blog by: Sougat
One is a colossus in domestic cricket, having rescued his side from total humiliation many times with both bat and ball; yet, he hasn’t had the fortune to find and hold down a place in the national side.
The other is a proven performer in international cricket, having brought the side back from the dead on many occasions, survived a potential life-threatening illness and recurring back spasms to return to a game that has given him much fame and adulation.
Both are a remarkable set of young men who have been the mainstays of the middle order in their respective arenas and are also athletic fielders.
Yet the question remains before the selectors: Dole out a reward for consistency or resurrect a career blighted by injury?
For Yuvraj Singh, it will be an open-armed welcome back to the national fold if he is picked on the strength of his recent performances for India A and India Blue (in the on-going N K P Salve Challenger Trophy). With his return, the shaky middle-order will receive the kind of stability it has been missing of late.
The likes of Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli have done their bit at the top very well so far, but once they fall early, it puts pressure on the batsmen to follow. Dinesh Karthik has blown hot and cold at times, and it has been left to MS Dhoni to pick up the slack on a few occasions when the top order has collapsed like a pack of cards.
In such scenarios, it is the Punjab dasher whose cool head in crisis situations and explosive hitting down the order has been missed sorely. He may struggle against spin initially, but he always backs his abilities and gets his eye in before unleashing the booming drives, the stylish flicks and, of course, the huge hits.
His achievements with the bat and ball are well-documented; however, his super-charged fielding is what drew in his initial legion of fans. Kohli and Raina may have done well in this aspect in recent times, but it was Yuvraj, in tandem with the discarded Mohammad Kaif, who brought the zing back in what used to be a grey area for the national squad.
On the strength of his recent performances and his previous record alone, Yuvraj has a powerful case for recall.
But Abhishek Nayar is an equally strong contender. Tall and broad-shouldered, the Mumbai lad has, time and again, played his heart out for his team. Be it with the bat that seldom stays silent, or with the ball, which he coerces into posing the toughest of queries to rival batsmen, Nayar has been the central edifice around which the 40-time Ranji winners have secured their biggest triumphs.
In the on-going Challenger Trophy, Nayar did the star turn with the bat in both games for his team India Blue – 91 in the first game against Delhi, followed by a quick-fire 75 in today’s outing against India Red, ought to have been enough proof for the likes of Sandeep Patil & co. to pencil him in for the ODI side.
Further displays of his amazing talent came in the recently concluded series against New Zealand A, where he made a century and a half-century in consecutive four-day games for his team, earning creditable draws in both. His bowling wasn’t quite up to the mark, though – perhaps it is this area that has been keeping him out of national reckoning despite a fairly productive domestic career.
Does Nayar have a stronger case for an ODI recall than Yuvraj?
If recent performances are taken into account, the Mumbai all-rounder has definitely got the edge over the 2011 World Cup hero; Yuvraj has played lesser games than Nayar and is still battling a back problem.
However, the veteran of limited-overs cricket in the international arena has been around for over a decade, so both his recent exploits as well as a solid all-round record nudges him ahead of Abhishek.
My verdict? I’d prefer Yuvraj for both limited-overs formats, and both for ODIs. As long as Nayar recovers his bowling form, he can prove to be more than a handful for opposition teams, and will give Dhoni an additional option instead of relying on part-timers.
For now, though, the selectors have to make Sophie’s choice. Till then, it’s a wait-and-watch policy for me.