Seemingly forgotten... look what he has gotten!

Yuvraj is still capable of mayhem in the T20 format.-PTI

Yuvraj Singh’s phenomenal batting strike-rate in the game’s shortest version (153 in international games and 135 in domestic leagues) resulted in the call-up for the Indian Twenty20 squad. Perhaps it is the same yardstick that governed Virat Kohli and Vijay Mallya’s desire to have Yuvraj in RCB, writes K.C. Vijaya Kumar.

It was a week that hoisted Yuvraj Singh to the centre-stage of Indian cricket, a spot that he has often occupied in a decade-long career.

First up, he was included in the Indian squad for the World Twenty20 in Bangladesh.

Immediately a bigger stir, at least monetarily, was whipped up when he emerged as the player with the highest winning bid — a princely Rs. 14 crore — at the Indian Premier League auction in Bangalore.

Royal Challengers Bangalore owner Vijay Mallya, who almost ruined his budget outlay for the auction, by investing a major chunk on Yuvraj, expressed delight and reiterated how skipper Virat Kohli was keen on roping in the Punjab southpaw.

And yes, there was the small matter of Mallya nearly closing the bid at Rs. 10 crore before Kolkata Knight Riders stepped in and queered the pitch while auctioneer Richard Madley allowed the process to stretch and RCB was poorer by an additional four crores!

“Bottom line is that life goes on and we are very happy,” quipped Mallya though he did lodge a complaint against Knight Riders’ last-minute intrusion. The fact that Mallya and even Knight Riders thought that Yuvraj is worth more than 10 crores, is a testimony to the respect he still evokes about his ability to turn matches on their head. For RCB, that has often been a top-heavy outfit in the past when it comes to batting — Chris Gayle, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Kohli and A.B. de Villiers — Yuvraj was indeed a perfect fit.

With Dilshan out of the reckoning, Yuvraj will step in and his left-arm spin lends an added dimension to the RCB ranks. Add to it the chemistry he has with the crowd. Ever popular with fans thanks to his big-hitting ability, often embellished by that 2007 tale of six sixes off Stuart Broad, Yuvraj also tugged at hearts with his recovery from cancer.

As a brand by himself, Yuvraj’s stature is assured. Member of two World Cup-winning Indian squads (2007 World Twenty20 and 2011 World Cup) and that too with scintillating performances; a still youthful demeanour; and the endearing mix of vulnerability and a tough streak he displayed in his battle against cancer, are all pointers to his extra draw with both corporates and the public.

Royal Challengers Banglore captain Virat Kohli wanted Yuvraj Singh in the team and owner Vijay Mallya obliged, forking up a huge sum of money.-K.R. DEEPAK

With a name that is a direct link to a leading brand of whisky that belongs to Mallya’s United Spirits, RCB might use Yuvraj in surrogate advertisements for liquor brands, similar to the manner in which Gayle’s presence was monetised. It is just another pointer to how in a brand-cluttered IPL, a player is also viewed through the prism of marketing viability and top-of-mind recall value.

Amidst the high stakes game that RCB and Knight Riders played, surely there was a fine-print that other teams recognised but refused to publicly acknowledge. That grudging thought centred upon the fact that most of the ‘feel-good’ references to Yuvraj, swirled around the 2011 World Cup and the years before that. His omission from the Indian ODI squad on the tour of New Zealand, a hiatus that got further extended as his name is missing from among the ‘Men in Blue’ set to do battle in the Asia Cup in Bangladesh, are all loud hints that in these months leading up to the 2015 World Cup, the selectors are in a dilemma over Yuvraj’s viability in 50-over games.

In his last 10 ODI innings, Yuvraj has netted a meagre 121 runs. It is a statistic that forced the selectors to wield the axe. In the same breath, they still bank on Yuvraj’s phenomenal batting strike-rate in the game’s shortest version (153 in international games and 135 in domestic leagues) and hence the call-up for the Indian Twenty20 squad.

Perhaps it is the same yardstick that governed Kohli and Mallya’s desire to have Yuvraj in RCB.

The money that Yuvraj gained, a whopping one at that, was far better than what pre-auction favourites like Kevin Pietersen and Corey Anderson bagged. Pietersen was secured by Delhi Daredevils for Rs. 9 crore while Mumbai Indians wrested Anderson for Rs. 4.5 crore.

However, the lesser price is no yardstick to judge Pietersen and the New Zealand all-rounder because any auction is governed by the dynamics of counter-bids. Even Yuvraj’s rate skyrocketed primarily due to Knight Riders’ extra interest.

With the exception of Daredevils (that had Rs. 60 crore in its kitty thanks to its decision to not retain anyone), all teams were hamstrung by their limited resources and with the need to field full-fledged squads, there was only a limited distance they could travel while fighting for players. That an expensive buy can also affect the rest of the team's composition was made evident by RCB’s diffidence in the second-half of the auction after Yuvraj burnt a hole in Mallya’s wallet.

Bangalore, specifically the National Cricket Academy, played a huge role in Yuvraj’s comeback after he was considerably weakened by cancer and the subsequent treatment. The city’s IPL team will again play a part in determining Yuvraj's comeback into the Indian ODI team. He is too good a player not to be a part of India’s title defence in the 2015 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, but it all boils down to performance.

A fine stint in his Twenty20 outings in the coming months will be good for Yuvraj the player and the brand. The player though is in good spirits as evident in his tweet after RCB won him over — “What time's the gangnam (dance).” The moot question is will he make the bowlers dance to his tunes? For Indian cricket’s sake, he better do that. And fast!