Yuvraj has to prove his worth

AP

The Asia Cup triumph should provide the fillip that Team India needs, and with a middle order slot still available, the coming Test series against Sri Lanka will be the best chance for Yuvraj Singh to make his bid.

The Sri Lankans faltered on the day it mattered and what will hurt them is the big margin by which they lost the final of the Asia Cup. The facile victory against the Indians in the last league game would have enhanced their hopes of completing a hat-trick of triumphs but the Indians proved to be too good for the hosts on the day of reckoning.

The hosts were outplayed in all departments and in the end the result was a foregone conclusion even before the Sri Lankan innings reached the halfway mark.

The Indian seamers stifled the Sri Lankans from the word go and the resultant pressure produced wickets at regular intervals. The much-fancied Sri Lankan batting lineup crumbled like a pack of cards to give the Indians a well-deserved victory. The triumph was important for the Indians, as they needed to get back on keel in their preparation for the World Cup. The victory against the Lankans is creditable given that they are a difficult side to beat at home.

The triumph notwithstanding, the major concern for the team is the fitness of Sehwag who is an important cog in the Indian wheel. Of late he has been more out than in and it is a cause for concern. Hopefully, he will be at his best in terms of fitness for the Test series against Sri Lanka and will get cracking in his inimitable manner.

The injury to Sehwag gave Dinesh Karthik a couple of unexpected opportunities and the mercurial cricketer grabbed them by making useful contributions. His knock in the final of the Asia Cup provided a good start and laid the foundation for the middle order to build on it and get a substantial score. The only thing that Karthik needs to do is to convert his starts into big scores and the sooner he does the better it will be for him personally and the team as well.

While Karthik made his mark with the bat, Praveen Kumar bowled consistently well to reaffirm that he is a street-smart cricketer. He is a combative player who can make the white ball swing both ways and his ability to change the length at will makes him a difficult proposition to handle.

He along with Zaheer make a good combination in the one-dayers and with Nehra providing the back-up, the medium pace attack did a reasonably good job for India.

However, Dinda seems to be struggling to cope with the demands of international cricket for the simple reason that he seems to rely on one mode only — running in and bowling as quick as he can. He must realise that it is not all about pace at that level and it is imperative that he learns to vary his pace and length as well. It is always a temptation for a young man to run in and bowl fast but the key to success is in adapting to the situation. Dinda will do well to learn a thing or two from the likes of Praveen Kumar or Zaheer Khan as they are not exactly express fast but they still are effective.

The Asia Cup triumph should provide the fillip that Team India needs and with a middle order slot still available, the coming Test series against Sri Lanka will be the best chance for Yuvraj Singh to make his bid. A string of scores will definitely give him an advantage over the others and there is no better forum than Tests for a cricketer to prove his form and fitness.

There will be some amount of pressure on Yuvraj Singh to perform and that by itself should prove to be the motivating factor. The selectors have retained him based on his recent performances in Test matches, and they will have him in their radar for the one-dayers as well if he can put up enough runs on the board. Yuvraj Singh will be aware that Team India will and can play without him if required and with the likes of Sharma and Kohli breathing down his neck, the Test series will be a fresh start for him and will be important in more ways than one.

Apart from Yuvraj Singh, the good old chaps Dravid, Tendulkar and Laxman will be looking forward to the Test series as they get limited opportunities these days. Of course, Tendulkar still has the option of playing the ODIs but Dravid and Laxman are restricted to Test cricket only and hence they will be keen to get on top with their games.

Laxman did not have the best of times in Sri Lanka the last time around and this may well be his last trip, which will spur him on to set the record straight. If he plays half as well as he normally does against the Aussies, a lot of viewers will remain glued to the television sets even in an era of slam-bang cricket.

The Asia Cup hardly attracted the following it normally does due to the FIFA World Cup, but one hopes that the Test series will be a different story.