Confident Kings XI overcome stuttering RCB

Punjab’s bowling unit comes up trumps again as Bangalore’s dip in form continues

At the toss, RCB skipper Virat Kohli broke the news which all RCB fans (and certainly most cricket fans) were eagerly waiting to hear; the return of a certain Christopher Gayle to the side after injury. But ultimately, even the return of their talisman couldn’t stop the Kings XI Punjab from inflicting another defeat on the Royal Challengers; their third loss in a row. Although Kohli would be feeling a little undone by the lack of temperament shown by his batsmen, all credit must be given to the Kings XI bowlers for their superb showing, in what was billed as one of the high-profile encounters by fans and pundits alike.

Put in to bat by Punjab skipper George Bailey, RCB got off to a flying start. 20 runs came off the first over from Glenn Maxwell; Gayle following two tentative boundaries with two confident sixes down the ground. But that is all he could offer, as he was clean bowled in the very next over, after a failed over-ambitious attempt to loft young Sandeep Sharma out of the ground. Kohli dispatched his first delivery to the point boundary in style. But a rare umpiring blunder from Billy Bowden on the very next ball gifted Sharma his second wicket in the space of three balls, as Kohli was wrongly adjudged leg-before to a ball that was missing leg stump.

Sandeep Sharma celebrates after dismissing Gayle and Kohli in the same over

Two wickets in 3 balls soon became four wickets in 24 balls as Takawale and Parthiv Patel were dismissed in quick succession, with only 28 runs on the board. Yuvraj Singh and AB de Villiers led the fightback; RCB managing 44 runs from the powerplay overs with the loss of 4 wickets.

Yuvi looked in better touch than he has in recent games; he welcomed Balaji to his spell with an expansive drive and then lofted Akshar Patel over his favourite mid-wicket region for a maximum. The duo added 39 runs before a loose shot ended de Villiers’ unusually quiet innings. His South African compatriot Albie Morkel added 25 runs with Yuvi before chopping a gentle medium pacer from Balaji onto his stumps.

With pressure building, Yuvraj (35 off 32) holed out in the deep as he tried to accelerate the scoring rate; RCB were 97/7, with all their specialist batsmen back in the hut. Starc and Aaron struggled to find the boundaries as RCB finished with a below-par score of 124 for 8. Man of the match, Sandeep Sharma, the hero in Punjab’s previous game, shone with the ball again, with figures of 3 for 15.

Sandeep Sharma was adjudged Man of the Match for the second consecutive game

Needing just over a run a ball, Sehwag and Pujara started slowly; 22 runs coming off the first four overs, with little fancy stroke play. Pujara was caught behind off Dinda’s very first delivery in the fifth over. Wriddhiman Saha, promoted up the order, was sent back after Mitchell Starc plucked one out of thin air at fine leg. Sehwag continued to play his natural game at the other end; KXIP managing 40 runs off the first six overs. Starc then pulled off another stunner at fine leg to get rid of the dangerous Maxwell and suddenly RCB were looking to make serious inroads.

But any momentum RCB had was quickly taken away by David Miller, who smashed four boundaries in the space of eight balls, including three consecutive fours off Albie Morkel in the 11th over. Leg spinner Yuzvendra Chahal, one of the finds of the tournament so far, landed a double blow in the 13th over, as he dismissed Miller with a wrong one edged to the keeper and did the same to end Viru’s resilient innings two balls later. But defending such a low total would always be a challenge and KXIP skipper Bailey (16 off 16), along with Rishi Dhawan (23 off 22) kept their heads to see their side home with 7 balls to spare.

It’s back to the drawing board for Kohli & Co.

With this win, Punjab extended their winning run in the IPL to eight games, as they remain the only unbeaten side in this year’s competition so far, and are most likely guaranteed a place in the play-offs. For RCB, a season that started brightly seems to be hitting a rough patch. Kohli & Co. need to get their act together quickly and hope that Lady Luck smiles on them more than it has in recent games. The return of Gayle is a big boost to a side that seems to be lacking the form and confidence necessary to produce good results on a regular basis, despite boasting one of the most well balanced squads.

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McCullum, Smith guide CSK to fourth consecutive win!

Brendon McCullum and Dwayne Smith smashed the Sunrisers bowling attack all around the park to ensure a victory for the Chennai Superkings. The victory was Chennai’s fourth on the trot while Sunrisers, with just one victory in their account in the tournament, slumped to their third defeat in the 2014 IPL. What looked like a very comfortable run chase in the first half of CSK innings, turned into a humdinger in the next few overs. But Chennai Super Kings overcame some anxious moments before huffing and puffing to a five-wicket win over a fighting Sunrisers Hyderabad in a nail biting encounter at the Sharjah.

Batting first, the Sunrisers did find it difficult to middle the balls. Skipper Dhawan fell to Hilfenhaus scoring only 9 runs. Warner was unlucky to get out as he was adjudged LBW by the umpire on a delivery that was pitched clearly outside the leg stump. It was Australian batsman Aaron Finch’s fighting 44-run knock and a splendid rearguard action that propelled Hyderabad to a competitive 145 for five. The Australian batsman held the one end when wickets fell consistently from the other before departing in the fag end.

Finch added 52 runs for the third wicket with Lokesh Rahul (25). Finch was dismissed for 44 of 45 deliveries and was castled by Mohit Sharma. Venugopal Rao departed soon after. Darren Sammy (23 not out) and Karan Sharma (17 not out) slogged and slogged well to help their side get to the score of 145. They scored 32 runs in the last two overs. Sharma hammered paceman Ben Hilfenhaus for two sixes in the penultimate over and Sammy also succeeded in hitting a maximum off Mohit Sharma in the final over. For the Superkings, Mohit Sharma and Ben Hilfenhaus picked two wickets each. Ashwin continued to bowl miserly, conceding just 17 runs in his quota of overs, albeit without a wicket.

Chasing 146 for their fourth win in a row, Chennai achieved the target with three balls to spare as openers Dwayne Smith (66) and Brendon McCullum (40) laid a solid foundation with their 85-run partnership in 10.5 overs.

CSK openers started the innings in the most flamboyant manner. Despite losing his partner, Smith went about his business calmly and completed his third half-century of this season with a single off paceman Ishant Sharma. The West Indian clobbered Amit Mishra for a six to raise 100 of the CSK innings. But then a quick flurry of wickets gave CSK a scare and a glimmer of hope for the Sunrisers dugout. Brendon McCullum was dismissed by Karn Sharma on 40. Soon to follow was Suresh Raina who added just 14 runs to the team total. Chennai were cruising at one stage, needing just 22 runs from the last five overs with eight wickets in hand but young Indian paceman Bhuvaneshwar Kumar changed the complexion of the game by dismissing Smith and Faf du Plessis in the same over. Du Plessis got a golden duck as he edged one of Kumar’s bowling. In the 19th over, Ravindra Jadeja followed him by adding just 6 runs.

CSK needed six runs off the last over, bowled by Amit Mishra, and skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni finished it off in style, dismissing a full toss to square leg boundary. To everybody’s amazement, skipper Dhawan decide to hand the ball to the leggie. Notably, Darren Sammy didn’t get to bowl a single over in this game.

A smiling Dhoni welcomed the fourth victory for his side and was totally satisfied with his team’s effort. Smith, who anchored the CSK chase with his 46-ball knock that was embedded with five sixes and four shots to the fence and was adjudged the Man of the Match.

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And it is 4-0 for the Mumbai Indians!

The Mumbai Indians continued their poor show at the 2014 IPL with yet another dismal performance. Mumbai Indians suffered their fourth consecutive defeat as Delhi Daredevils thrashed the defending champions by six wickets. The men in blue faltered in every department of the game showing no signs of resilience. The Sharjah track looked a difficult one and on the slower side and hence applying themselves in the middle was what was expected from the batsmen. But none of the batsmen from the Mumbai Indians side showed any positivity and the total outfit lacked confidence.

On the other hand, the Delhi Daredevils, despite of losing their previous match against the Sunrisers in a rather close affair, oozed with confidence under the leadership of Kevin Pietersen.

Earlier in the day, Mumbai skipper Rohit Sharma won the toss and elected to bat first. The Delhi bowlers put up a clinical bowling display to restrict the Mumbai Indians for a meager 125 for six. Pacers Jaydev Unadkat (2 for 29) and Wayne Parnell (1 for 17) and spinner Shahbaz Nadeem (1 for 19) shared four wickets to strangle the Mumbai batting unit in their stipulated 20 overs. There was a change in batting order for Mumbai hoping to turn things for them but all in vain. Skipper Sharma decided to open the innings but perished cheaply getting run out in the second over of the innings. In the fourth over, Parnell dismissed Aditya Tare (8) when he had him caught at deep midwicket by Quinton de Kock, while Anderson’s 14-ball 13-run stay was cut short by Jaydev Unadkat in his very first over. Hussey was demoted at number 5 but couldn’t do much either. Kieron Pollard (33 of 30 balls) and CM Gautam then put on 40 run partnership for the sixth wicket. Despite of their efforts, all that Mumbai could manage was an average score of 125.

The chase was on and unlike the Mumbai Batsmen, the Delhi openers continued their new found form and applied themselves in a reasonably better manner and put on 34 runs for the first wicket. De Kock was removed by Corey Anderson. Vijay then put on a 40 run stand with in-form Duminy to steady the ship before he succumbed to Rohit Sharma in the 13th over trying to loft one over the midwicket and totally missing the ball. Duminy and Karthik’s stay at the crease also didn’t last long. It was the skipper Pietersen who looked comfortable today and remained unbeaten. Kedar Jadhav (14 not out) hit the winning runs as he hit Zaheer Khan for a boundary through fine leg to take Delhi to 126 for four and hand Mumbai their fourth defeat on the trot.

“The wicket was a bit on the slower side but I would have liked to finish the game for my team,”  the Man of the Match Vijay said.

Mumbai Indians captain Rohit Sharma found it difficult to explain the consistent failure of his much-vaunted batting line-up stating that “nothing is working” for the team and the disappointed captain quoted, “Batting has been a problem for us. 126 was not the score we were looking forward to. You need to put up a reasonable total for the bowlers to defend. We kept losing wickets at regular intervals. Still some work is needed to be done”.

 

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Super Kings trounce Daredevils in Abu Dhabi

Delhi Daredevils’ capitulation against Chennai Super Kings brings into focus the need for a squad’s strength in depth.

As Delhi Daredevils prepared to take on Chennai Super Kings, they knew they were missing the services of Kevin Pietersen. And when Nathan Coulter-Nile did not take to the field on Monday, Dinesh Karthik knew that his job had become even tougher. After all, his Daredevils side was now a bowler short against the star-studded batting line-up of CSK. And in the end, it turned out to be a lop-sided affair in Abu Dhabi.

Suresh Raina scores a half century against Delhi Daredevils

Delhi had won their previous match against Kolkata Knight Riders. CSK on the other hand, had failed to defend 204 against Kings XI Punjab. The handicapped Delhi bowling unit restricted Dhoni & Co. to 178, but was eventually let down by a timid batting display from their big guns.

The CSK openers; Smith and McCullum, both of whom played whirlwind innings in the previous game, started off strongly. Dwayne Smith played a couple of powerful pull shots, and McCullum lofted one down the ground, and suddenly one feared the worst for the DD bowlers. McCullum was dropped by Duminy in the 4th over, only to be caught at short third-man off Jaidev Unadkat’s very next ball. Smith misread an arm ball from Shahbaz Nadeem and was cleaned up.

Suresh Raina’s steady innings was customary. A mixture of fashionable and powerful hitting, he brought up his 20th IPL half century in just 36 balls. He found the gaps at will, often lofting the ball over the in-field. He also took advantage of Coulter-Nile’s absence as he took 13 runs off a rare Murali Vijay over. By the time Raina fell in the 15th over, the foundation for the lower middle-order had been laid.

Dhoni and Faf du Plessis provided the late surge. Shami’s inability to find a fuller length; a rarity in itself; was exploited by both batsmen. Dhoni in particular, was in a destructive mood as he bludgeoned 32 of 16. Mithun Manhas scored a quick-fire 13 off 5 deliveries after both Dhoni and du Plessis holed out in the deep. Unadkat’s effort of 3 for 32 was the only positive for the Daredevils.

Delhi’s innings was a stuttering affair all through. Their woes were further compounded by some brilliant fielding by Raina and du Plessis. Raina ran backwards and dived to his left to latch on to a miscued shot by Mayank Agarwal in the second over. Du Plessis caught Vijay; running backwards from mid-on. He followed this up by pulling off a stunning diving effort to send Tiwary back. Delhi was reeling at 15/3 from 5 overs, and could never recover from this position.

Dinesh Karthik tried to hold the innings together, but wickets kept tumbling around him. With the dependable Duminy and the power hitter Ross Taylor back in the hut for cheap, and the run rate barely over 5, Delhi’s fate was sealed long before the innings came to a close. The tail had a tall order to accomplish which was too much to ask, as the innings folded in the 16th over; Delhi Daredevils skittled for 84 runs.

It’s still early days in the IPL and it’s the team that gets the early momentum that’ll be in an advantageous position come the business end of the tournament. Chennai seem to have found their footing in the Arabian desert, with a clinical performance. Delhi have problems to deal with and will do well to sort them out before losing too much ground to the other IPL outfits.

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KXIP pull off another spectacular run chase!

Glenn Maxwell played a stunning  knock of 89 runs before David Miller provided the finishing touches with a belligerent  19-ball 51 as Kings XI Punjab hammered Rajasthan Royals by seven wickets.

For the second consecutive time in this season, the KXIP batting line up was challenged with an imposing target. And yet again, the batting line up that boasts of players like Miller, Maxwell and Bailey did not let their fans down. It was a magnificent display of batting by the Kings as they chased down a total of 192.

Earlier in the day, it was George Bailey, the skipper of KXIP, who won the toss and elected to field first.

Put into bat, Rajasthan had a horrifying start to their innings when the in form Rahane was run out in the powerplay. Coming in at number three, 19 year old Sanju Samson played a little gem of an innings and made a classy 52. Left-handed Abhishek Nayar (23) was also impressive with his timing as he lifted Parvinder Awana for a massive straight six. Skipper Watson struck his form back and chipped in with a half century before being castled by the left arm spinner Akshar Patel. Down the order Steve Smith (27 not out) batted well for the Royals and it was his cameo that propelled Rajasthan Royals to a total of 191 in their allotted 20 overs. Murali Karthik was the most expensive bowler as he bled 51 runs in his four overs while spinner Akshar Patel was the pick of the bowlers.

The target looked daunting. Chasing an imposing 192 to win, Punjab made a sluggish start as Sehwag and Saha were dismissed cheaply. Pujara struggled for his 40. Although the Saurashtrian remained unbeaten, his stay at the crease never looked a comfortable one. But it was the Miller and Maxwell show that did the job for the Kings. Maxwell started it, fours and sixes rained all over the ground. In 10 overs, Punjab were 69 for two but in the next three overs, Punjab scored 51 runs with Maxwell scoring 46 of them.

Maxwell hit nine boundaries, including two sixes, in those three overs, which changed the scenario of the game.

In his third-wicket partnership of 116 runs with Cheteshwar Pujara, Maxwell’s contribution was 89 while Pujara (40 not out) was reduced to a spectator at the other end.

A century was there to be taken, but Maxwell threw it away once again. Kane Richardson dismissed Maxwell in the 13th over, giving the Royals some hope to get back into the game. But the wicket of Maxwell only brought in David Miller, and the South African showed why he is rated so highly at the international circuit. Miller smashed the second fastest fifty in IPL history by making a 19 ball 51.

It was the 18th over, when Miller hit four consecutive sixes of Dhawal Kulkarni’s bowling that almost seized the game for the KXIP. The bowlers lost their lines completely and the target was reached at ease. The incredible power hitting display overhauled the target with 8 balls to spare.

Glenn Maxwell was awarded the Man of the Match and he quoted “It feels good to get the orange cap and chase down above 190 in two consecutive games. It felt nice playing against familiar faces and I will try to hang on to the orange cap for as long as possible. The thing that worries me most is I was not there to hit the winning runs on both occasions.”

With this win, KXIP have announced themselves in the tournament and certainly they are the team to beat.

 

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The Bag and the Bin

I see him. Everyday at the bus stop. I catch the bus for college everyday from that place. It is a mad rush every morning. People always on the go. Someplace to be. Something to do. They pass by him without sparing a glance. It is as if he is nothing more than the broken billboards, just a part of the sights of urban life. He is usually curled up beside the dustbin.  The Delhi heat has burnt his bare feet into blisters until you only see them and nothing else. His clothes barely cover his body and his disheveled hair conceals his face. He is no one.

Usually, he carries a shaggy ol’ bag wherever he goes. I am always left wondering what is inside. But, I do not dare talk to him. He reeks of smells unknown. He belongs to the other side. The side which has no identity. He has a blank look on his face, like he’s looking into something far beyond anyone’s comprehension. Some days, he smiles but to no one in particular, just to the infinite sky, like he is the only one who understood the joke. There are times, when he catches me looking at him. I turn away whenever he does. I have been taught not to trust him. I have learnt to look away.

Today morning, I went to the bus stop again. The place I catch the bus from everyday. But, I do not see him. His ol’ bag is by the dustbin, as if carefully left for safekeeping . The buses and the people move like they do everyday. But, he is not there anymore.

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PAPA’S PRAYERS

The magnificent bronze bell hangs high. The night has fallen and the light of a hundreds of diyas is shimmering on it. The aarti starts. The temple echoes with the sound of a thousand prayers. The bells are resonating. They create a medley of tones, some high and some feeble. The whiff of burning ghee is filling the air. It is enveloping me all around. Soon, my mind wanders to another place, one I hadn’t visited in a long time.

Its 1999, and the sun is pouring in through the windows, turning the room a shade of yellow. The fan is ferociously running at full speed, fighting against the summer air. I am lying on my bed, awake but in no hurry to get up. Now, the fan is slowing down. Like every other day, my Mamma has switched it off in a last attempt to wake me up on a Monday morning. “It’s time!” she screams from the kitchen. I force myself to sleep again, trying to ignore the heat which the sun is forcing in, but all my attempts fail. It is a hot Monday morning with no fan, and that means that I have to get up.

I walk into the small living room, where the bright red radio sits proudly on the arm rest of my Papa’s favorite sofa. It is turned on at full volume. A loud bhajan is streaming from its small speakers, the one they play every morning. I do not like it. Why does he have to play it early in the morning?! Its already so hard getting up. I find him in the kitchen, where a small cabinet has been converted into a mandir for him. He is in his blue towel and is chanting the Hanuman Chalisa. There are fresh bananas kept at Ganesha’s feet and an agarbatti is glowing fiery red at a corner. The kitchen is smoky with the sweet fragrance of jasmine, which the exhaust fan is trying to throw out. Papa turns and he has a solemn look on his face. Without a word, he hands me a piece of the banana. The banana smells of the agarbatti too. I eat it greedily nevertheless. I wonder why he is so silent when he prays. There are no words, no expression, just a blank look. He doesn’t tell me why. I think I will never understand.

After my bath, I see him on his favorite sofa, humming along to the radio bhajans. He is skimming through the newspaper and sipping chai. He looks happy. “Come, have breakfast!” he says.

The pandits of the temple are marching round the temple. They each hold a bronze platter with a big diya on it. Round and round they go. At the end of the aarti, we are all handed the Prasad. With my hands full of sliced sweet bananas, I look up and see the starry night. And a smile spreads across my face. Life is good, I think to myself. I thank Papa. He knew that someday, I would understand it all.

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YUVRAJ SINGH: A LOSER OR AN ‘OUT OF TOUCH’ PRINCE?

On 19th september 2007, South Africa saw one of the most astonishing innings it has ever seen. A lad, 26 years old, walked in. With his bat, he smashed the cricket ball around, all flying. All the balls in the 18th over enjoyed a free flight into the stands.  He had done the same earlier in Under 15 and Under 19 World Cups for his national side. He repeated his special performance  at the international level, time and again, and proved his worth over and over again. The Natwest series in England, which he clinched back after a nail biting match from England, with a partnership alongside  Mohammad Kaif, established his importance in the side. He was the best fielder in the Gangulian team. And now, all of a sudden, he has become a villain……………..!

 

Yes, its none other than the PRINCE OF PUNJAB - YUVRAJ SINGH. There is absolutely nothing better to watch than Yuvi at his blistering best. Even against the fastest of bowlers, just a flick of the wrist and then you see the spectators throwing in the ball from the stands. Bowl to Yuvraj on the leg stump, and you will have to collect the ball from the boundary. It is nothing but his heroics that took India into the finals of the 2011 ICC WORLD CUP CRICKET all the way from the group stage. Those innings against Australia and West Indies and his bowling, against almost all the teams, still remains a golden feather in the Indian World Cup triumph.

 

And, now, a single knock that did not rise to the occasion has become a terrible accident to have happened. The same man who was hailed as a prince has now become a villain. Amidst all the blames on Yuvi, people tend to forget that he is a human as well. They seem to forget that he has just returned from the deadliest of diseases. They seem to forget that he is the person who had set the trend of flying in the field before the indian children and cricket aspirants. How can they forget that he has for long been the most trusted batsman for India at no. 05? How can pelting stones at his house for one bad performance, for a bad day at office, be justified? Of course it was the worst possible time for such a costly error. But he deserves kindness and trust. He deserves to be backed by his fans while he is at the wrong end of fortunes.

 

It is high time that we, the fans, realise that cricket is a game and that it  is played by humans and not super humans. We got to accept that even  these superstars are bound to commit mistakes. Criticism, when healthy,  is very good. Even the great Sachin Tendulkar has had to face it. But  pelting stones can occupy only the lowest rung in the ladder of decency.  Yuvraj Singh, we are sorry. It was nothing but our desperateness taking  the form of aggression. We are really sorry that you were at the receiving  end. SORRY…. SORRY…. SORRY….!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Silent Goodbyes

 

The silences are loud,
They come out like ghosts;
Lost on their way.

The winds blow the leaves away,
And the Sun shines through,
But we sit there motionless;
With nothing  left to say.

My eyes are stuck to the ground;
And yours are to the sky,
The space between us feels like;
A wall six feet high.

You talk of your day;
You talk of your errands done on time,
I smile hesitantly and think of;
How my day went by.

I do not tell you that;
My thoughts were lost in you,
I thought of summertime;
Our love, fresh as morning dew.

But now, we are sitting here;
Under this withering tree;
And you are telling me;
How great life is…

I have only silences to give;
And maybe you have your words as shields,
But when we see eye to eye;
I can hear two souls scream.

So I let myself an inch closer;
Hoping you would hear them too;
Hoping you would hold my hand to your heart and say;
“Baby, I hear you….”

You look up and my heart is filled with joy;
I think its almost time!
Now we will be just fine.
This six feet wall, we shall climb.

But you blink, and then you blink twice,
Your world of dreams flashes;
Like a bright light;
It dumbs your eyes and muffs your scream;
The wall between thickens with every beat.
From now on, you will never be,
You will never be able to hear us scream.

I gather my strength, I say, “I have to go. Its time.”
“I have to go. Its time”
And you just say;
You just say, “Alright”.

I gulp down my tears;
I don’t want you to see them,
I don’t want you to know that my heart is bleeding.

I get up.
I know its time to leave;
But,  I walk slow,
Hoping that if I walk slow enough;
I’ll hear your call back,
But I cant be so slow;

I can’t be slow that I do not move at all.
I have to cross over to the other side;
After this there won’t be any turning back;
I stop.
I stop in the middle;
My buckling legs wants to run back to your arms;
and my trembling heart wants to cry onto your chest.

But then I blink.
I blink and your world of dreams flashes in front!
I do not see myself in that world;
After all, all I have to give is silence;
And you can’t hear any more.

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Cricket: A great leveller

July 13, 2002: Natwest Series 2002, Final, India vs England

India – 133/4 in 21 overs in reply to England’s 326.

India’s experienced batsmen are back in the pavilion. In walks the 20 year old Yuvraj Singh. He starts off nervously with leg byes off Ashley Giles and then watches in horror as India slump to 147/5. But then, confidence takes center-stage and in the company of the 21 year old Mohammad Kaif, Yuvraj lifts India from shambles and sets the tone for a famous victory. Harsha Bhogle rejoices in the commentary box: “This young man here is playing the innings of his life!”

March 24, 2011: ICC Cricket World Cup 2011, Quarter-final, India vs Australia

India – 143/3 in 28.3 overs in reply to Australia’s 260.

In comes the in-form batsman Yuvraj. There is no nervousness this time. Slams his first ball to the midwicket fence and then in the company of Raina, never really loses sight of the run-rate. Thrashes a scorcher from Brett Lee to the cover boundary, let’s out a mighty roar, flashes his blade in the air, comes down on his knees and displays raw emotion. India canter home with 5 wickets in hand and 14 balls to spare.

April 6, 2014: ICC World T20, Final, India vs Sri Lanka

India – 64/2 in 10.3 overs batting first.

A struggling and out of form Yuvraj Singh comes to the crease. Prods and Plonks at deliveries outside off stump. Tries a slog sweep unsuccessfully. Comes down the wicket and gets beaten. Defends awkwardly to innocuous deliveries. Gets rapped on the pads numerous times. Makes a dispiriting 11 runs off 21 balls, not before failing to give the strike to his in-form batting partner and sucking the momentum out of the innings. India reach a paltry 130. Game over.

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“Life is a succession of lessons which must be lived to be understood.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

At this point, nobody knows this better than Yuvraj Singh. For a man who has conquered some staggering peaks and seen a few crushing blows, it is an irony that the game which had given him a reason to fight and rise above a deadly disease should send him crashing into cricketing oblivion. Make no mistake, his India career is far from over. But gauging by the reactions of the fans, media and experts, a ‘fourth’ comeback in two years now might be next to impossible.

It has been reiterated by people over the years that cricket is an unpredictable game and that factor makes it all the more interesting. But unpredictability can get on to your nerves, especially if you are an emotional Indian fan. Rewind to 1996 and the infamous India vs Sri Lanka World cup match which ended abruptly, with Clive Lloyd, the match referee awarding the game to Sri Lanka as it was highly risky to continue when the crowd was unruly and the stands were set on fire.

Fast forward to 2006: the shocking incident when Sachin Tendulkar was ‘booed’ off his home ground -Wankhede for underperforming. Fans in India have always been vocal with their emotions and this time around, things don’t seem to be rather different.

Reactions from the fans on Yuvraj’s style of play on night of the final have been rather mixed. While some of them have come out in support of the dashing southpaw, others have lambasted him mercilessly. Stray incidents of stone pelting by angry cricket fans on Yuvraj’s home have also been reported. While that is utterly condemnable, it is not at all surprising.

So is Yuvraj the reason for India’s defeat?

Cricket is a team sport. While it is true that singular moments are decisive in a crunch match, it is also naïve to entirely blame individual performances. Yes, his scratchy innings was an ordeal to watch and certainly had some effect on the outcome, but then, a lot of other things went wrong for India.

It is actually pretty hard to predict how the match would have turned out, had he struck the ball well or got out early or at least given much of the strike to his partner, Virat Kohli, who was setting himself up for a flourish at the death. But before the criticism pours in, there are a few factors that need to be considered.

Yuvraj Singh was dropped from the Asia Cup ODI squad a few weeks back. But the selectors deemed it plausible to draft him into the T20 squad for an ICC event and interestingly, a World Cup at that. Now, that’s an awful lot of faith to be shown on a batsman, who wasn’t even in the reckoning for the 50 over format. His domestic returns prior to the tournament have also been uninspiring and did not warrant a natural selection.

M.S.Dhoni is known as man who leads by instinct and a ‘gut feeling’ and that approach has held him in good stead for a long time now. While his decision to promote Yuvraj ahead of the in-form Raina might have been tactical, it is most certainly debatable. But then, Dhoni trusted his trump card of 2007 and 2011 to repeat his magic but the magician seemed to have run out of tricks.

Cricket is, after all, a sport. A team can attempt to explicate all their plans for weeks together, but a flawless execution is never assured. After being the driving force behind two world cup titles, it seems as though that the Yuvraj Singh of yore has gone off the radar. Is he past his prime? Maybe. You never know, for cricket is a funny game and form is a fickle companion.

As Sachin Tendulkar so sensibly put it : “You can criticize Yuvraj, but do not crucify him.”

But then, as disappointed Yuvraj fans will tell you, cricket, in all its glory, is a great leveller.

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