Sporting heroes seldom fail to grab the moment to glorify them. They rarely waste an opportunity to thrust them into focus and run away with more than their share of the spoils. On the contrary, what we witnessed at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Sunday was a hero walking about in doubt and confusion, oblivious of the fact that he was actually the man of the moment.
That reluctant, doubtful hero was Yuvraj Singh. When Suresh Raina hit the winning runs and jumped wildly into the air pumping his fist, Yuvraj joined the frolics calmly, hoisting Raina on to his shoulder. Curiously, Raina was seen patting his winning stand partner, and it looked more like consoling than celebrating.
Even when Virat Kohli, Ravichadran Ashwin and Hardik Pandya ran onto the field to beat the Indian drum, and as they hugged the heroes and walked merrily off to the dugout shaking hands with the Australian players, Yuvraj looked lonely and lost. Part of it all, yet a bit outside of it all.
Maybe, it was due to the Mirpur-2014-like struggle he went through in the first part of his 12-ball existence at the crease. Yuvraj scored five runs off the first nine balls he had faced, which was disappointing, and 10 from the next three balls, which didn’t seem to sink in him, and it’s here he needs to look at things the way Kohli does.
The equation at the end of the Australian tour for Kohli is 4-all, not 1-4 in the ODI series and 3-0 in the T20s, and that’s the truth, obviously put and taken in a different, positive, self-motivating way. Such smart, Kohli-like way of looking at things helps, especially for Yuvaraj at this point of his confused existence.
Yuvraj needs to look at the day from the moment of truth as it unveiled in the last over when he was on strike and India needed 17 runs off six balls. The flick to fine leg that brought the target down to 13 off five balls and the rocking six that sailed over deep midwicket were the game-changers. Yuvraj needs to believe in the moments he had scripted—the four and the six off the first two balls of the final over that made the 17-run chase possible—than those he missed to grab or create.
The best thing that happened in the course of a week-from the fifth ODI match at Sydney to the last T20 game at the same ground—was not Raina or Yuvraj getting back in form. Nor was it about the happy hunting done hand in hand by Jasprit Bumrah and Ashish Nehra in the death overs, nor Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja squeezing life out of the rivals on unfamiliar, unhelpful territory. It was, and about, spotting the smile back on MS Dhoni’s lips.
Until a week ago, the Indian skipper had been a man worried about all things under the Indian sun. He was bothered about the inconsistent top order. The unreliable lower order forced him to bat with ridiculous caution. The below-par bowling unit looked incapable of defending 300-plus targets. Then, and all of a sudden, to hear Dhoni say “I don’t have to worry about the bowling lineup” at the presentation ceremony at SCG sounded as unreal as the performance of the Indian team in the last four games—you need to pinch yourself to make sure it’s no dream.
Now that Dhoni is happy with the top order and delighted with the bowling unit, does that mean all is hale, and going to be hearty, with the Indian team? Unlikely. Problems are likely to crop up as the guys who sat out with injuries find themselves fit again. Saying no to Bhuvaneshwar Kumar may not be difficult or unjustified, but doing that to Ajinkya Rahane requires ruthless dispassion.
(The writer is a freelance contributor based in India. All the views and opinions expressed in the article are solely those of the author and do not reflect those of Times of Oman)