Out in the cold!

Yuvraj Singh has now to sweat it out to regain his place in the Indian team.-PTI

The motivation to come back is strong. Yuvraj, Gambhir and Harbhajan have to just back themselves, writes Vijay Lokapally.

He never claimed to be perfect. In fact, he would often laugh at his shortcomings, mock his failures, and look to redeem himself. He was always involved in the process of improving his cricket, even when he was excelling at the international level. For Yuvraj Singh, considered a flawed genius by many, the path has been ridden with challenges that he has perpetually looked to tame, often with success. But the man who won India the 2011 World Cup now finds himself sidelined. And not for cricketing reasons at all.

Forty Tests and 293 ODIs is his treasure. It ought to have been more. For a man who began with an imperious display of strokeplay in Nairobi against Australia in 2000 it has been an eventful journey. He made his debut against Kenya in the ICC Knockout tournament, did not get to bat, but displayed his wares in the next contest when he blazed his way to 84 against an Australian attack that contained Glenn McGrath, Brett Lee and Jason Gillespie.

Fifteen years hence, has he reached the end of his cricketing journey? No place among the 30 probables for the 2015 World Cup and not considered eligible to earn a contract would suggest curtains for this awesomely gifted cricketer. Knowing the man, he is unlikely to give up. Adjudged Man of the 2011 World Cup, Yuvraj today finds himself discarded by a set of selectors that include his former team-mate Vikram Rathour and Sandeep Patil, a huge fan of the all-rounder.

True, Yuvraj did not help his cause with some poor returns in his last 20 ODI innings where he scored just one century and two fifties. The team management expected more, but then he was not the only batsman to fail. He became a victim of his reputation since the world expected him to win every match on his individual brilliance. If he felt let down by his captain (M. S. Dhoni) and the selectors, Yuvraj could not have been faulted. Ironically, his last international appearance came at Centurion Park against South Africa where he did not get to bowl despite Dhoni tossing the ball to seven bowlers. Yuvraj did not bat too as nature also conspired to dash his hopes.

Gautam Gambhir, the Delhi skipper, on way to a hundred (against Saurashtra) this Ranji season. Will the selectors consider him again?-R. V. MOORTHY

Yuvraj has taken the setbacks in his stride and begun the season on a rousing note. His back-to-back centuries against Haryana and Maharashtra in the ongoing Ranji Trophy clearly indicate his involvement with the game and and his resolve to look at the future with optimism.

Punjab coach Bhupinder Singh (Sr.), having seen Yuvraj from close quarters during his entire career, was full of praise. “He was getting out due to lack of concentration. All he needed was to spend time in the middle. I just told him to concentrate on his game and look to get a big score to help his confidence. He has batted with the same flair and flourish. I can tell you he is looking fitter than before and his motivation level is very high. When a batsman looks to make a comeback this is the way he scores runs. I have faith that Yuvraj will come back to the Indian team,” said Bhupinder.

The battle against cancer was a major one for Yuvraj. He won the World Cup even as he fought failing health. Today, he has emerged a motivating force in the fight against cancer. His cricket has also gained from this motivation to live a healthy life. “I feel for every cancer patient in the country. Cricket has given me that strength to go on,” says Yuvraj.

To be excluded from the list of contracted players also hurt Yuvraj. It was not that he lacked support. It was no different for Harbhajan Singh, with a haul of more than 400 Test wickets. But then the Board is not known for treating its icons with respect. Players like Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir and Ashish Nehra, all performers from the last World Cup, were never taken into confidence by the Board or the selectors.

Harbhajan Singh... more than 400 Test wickets, but still out of favour.-AKHILESH KUMAR

Harbhajan and Gambhir were shocked to be left out of the contracted players’ list. Of course, the list does not exclude them from the reckoning because decent performances in domestic cricket can still work in their favour. “It depends on how you motivate yourself to go through the domestic grind. That is the key,” noted Bhupinder, who has the tough task of encouraging Yuvraj and Harbhajan to give their best every time they step on to the field this season.

Gambhir has hardly been disheartened. The Board may have ignored him, but he nurtures hopes of a comeback based on strong performances. He began the season with a brilliant 147 against Saurashtra and looked assured in his knock.

“I am not perturbed by what is not in my control. I need to get runs and keep going,” was how Gambhir looked at the job on hand.

The motivation to come back is strong. Yuvraj, Gambhir and Harbhajan have to just back themselves.