Give Yuvraj a run in Test cricket

IN India, there is a tendency to brand cricketers. This makes things convenient for a lot of people.

SRIKKANTH

Yuvraj has come good in the ODIs and it's time to blood him in Test cricket. — Pic. V. V. KRISHNAN-

IN India, there is a tendency to brand cricketers. This makes things convenient for a lot of people. For instance, some are said to be good only for Tests, and some others for only limited overs matches.

It wouldn't matter that a batsman dubbed a Test cricketer might actually possess a lot of strokes, while the one chosen only for the ODIs might actually have innings building skills.

The same principle applies to bowlers, where accurate stump to stump pacemen have, on occasions, been considered useless for Test cricket. And bowlers with genuine wicket-taking ability have been kept out of the ODIs.

It might be another matter altogether that accuracy is a virtue in any form of the game, and grabbing wickets is the best way to stem the flow of runs in an overs limit contest.

Several cricketers have suffered due to being typecast in such a manner. The latest among them is Yuvraj Singh. I find it hard to believe that this talented left-hander has not figured in a single Test so far.

From the time I first saw him bat, in the ICC Knock-out tournament in Kenya, 2000, he has struck me as a cricketer with a lot of ability.

Yuvraj's punishing knock against the Aussies, in only his second game for the country, will always stay in my mind. There was so much quality in that effort.

A lot of cricketers struggle to make the transition from domestic cricket to international standards. When the bar is raised, some of them falter.

And here was Yuvraj, taking on some of the finest bowlers in the business with a mixture of class and courage. There was plenty of innovation too.

That was indeed a spectacular beginning. Subsequently, Yuvraj did go through a lean phase. So much criticism was heaped on the youngster that it appeared unfair to me.

Yuvraj has come good in the ODIs and it's time to blood him in Test cricket. — Pic. V. V. KRISHNAN-

Yuvraj came through the ordeal a much stronger cricketer, tightening up his defence. This was a phase where Yuvraj made some big three-figure knocks in domestic first class cricket, displaying the temperament needed for a long occupation of the crease.

He soon made a comeback to the Indian ODI XI and has batted with both flair and maturity. He has also showed the required commitment. I believe the time has come to include him in the Test squad.

The purists might argue that he tends to play too many strokes, but then, the approach to Test cricket has changed over the last four to five years. Now the emphasis is on dishing out positive, attacking cricket, putting runs on the board quickly and providing enough time for the bowlers to dismiss the opposition twice.

The Australian team is a great example of this concept, and if they do not get 300 runs in a day, it would come as a great surprise. The side has been enormously successful too, although it must be said that Australia has men with the ability needed to pull off such a game-plan.

The South Africans have also adopted a similar strategy, and they have been an immensely successful outfit too. The point is, a side has to seize the initiative, and this can only be achieved with positive batsmanship.

One of the reasons why India fared so poorly in the Test series during the last campaign down under was that it batted in too negative a fashion. This approach allowed the Aussie bowlers to apply a lot of pressure on the Indian batsmen.

Taking the battle to the opposition is the best way to unsettle the bowlers. This is where someone like Yuvraj might prove valuable. The Australian pacemen should not be allowed to get on top.

Mohammed Kaif is another batsman who could play a useful role for India. He is playing a lot more strokes these days than in the initial phase of his career, and can cut and pull well, which again will be effective strokes on Australian pitches.

I am not suggesting that Yuvraj and Kaif be included in the XI immediately. It will not be easy, for they would in all probability be competing with V.V.S. Laxman for a place in the Indian middle-order. And Laxman, as we know, is a gifted cricketer.

However, somewhere along the line, the selectors will have to give a fair chance to Yuvraj and Kaif. It would be a tragedy if they are confined only to the world of limited overs cricket.

Virender Sehwag's success at Test level is a case in point. He too was termed a `one-day batsman', but now he has Test centuries against his name in South Africa and England.

In New Zealand last season, on the pitches affording seam movement and bounce to the pacemen, Yuvraj applied himself well in the seven-match ODI series against the Kiwis. That was an encouraging sign.

He might not have made too many runs on the county circuit recently. However, I am quite sure it has more to do with a loss of form than a lack of ability.

In the sub-continent, we have a classic example of a cricketer who was considered a limited overs specialist turning out to be one of the most successful batsmen for his country in Tests. Yes, I am talking about the explosive opener Sanath Jayasuriya.

The great Aravinda de Silva, when he first surfaced in international cricket, was given the sobriquet `Mad Max,' for his all-out aggression. He matured into one the game's finest batsmen.

The readers will find this interesting. The only occasion when I won the Man of the Series award was in a Test series, down under in 1985-86. I was considered as a one-day specialist by some, but never bagged such an award in the shorter version of the game.

Yuvraj Singh has to be given the opportunity. Let's not make a judgment on him, without providing him a chance.