Why India shouldn't promote Yuvraj Singh
A look at why Yuvraj Singh's current role in the side demands him to play where he is and not in the top order.
Struggle is as much a part of a sportsman's life as success. Few would argue that many have undergone more struggles than Yuvraj Singh in their sporting career. One of India's finest finishers had his life, let alone career, almost cut short by a life-threatening illness.
Yet one thing Yuvraj has always had by his side is the unanimous support of his fans. From his U-19 days to the 2007 World T20 when he smashed Stuart Broad for six sixes in an over, to his Man of the Tournament winning performance in the 2011 World Cup as India clinched the tournament for the first time in 28 years, the fans were always behind him.
It is again those same fans, who helped him make an international comeback after being diagnosed with a rare form of cancer and yet again in 2016, helped him return to the national set-up after almost two years, after he played a titular role in India's loss in the 2014 World T20 final.
So it is no surprise that it is those same fans, who are clamoring once again for him to be moved up the order in the T20I side, for both the Asia Cup and the World T20 that follows it. But, given the form of India's top three and Suresh Raina, following his comeback in the T20I series in Australia, there is simply no room for him to be promoted.
MS Dhoni, who admitted that he doesn't see himself batting up the order, must ensure that the same goes for Yuvraj Singh and here's why.
Need for experience
One of the reasons why Yuvraj Singh was brought back into the Indian side was on the basis of his performance in the domestic List-A and T20 tournaments. While he did score a lot of runs in both tournaments, they all came when he was batting at No.4, a position currently occupied by Suresh Raina in the Indian T20I side.
The return of Yuvraj Singh into the Indian middle-order not only gave it more firepower but also gave some much-needed experience in the spine of the team. While the top three have looked settled for a while, No.4, 5 and 6 have been India's Achilles' Heel for a while now. Quite a few had been tried but none had managed to make the right impact.
MS Dhoni's waning batting prowess didn't help that cause either nor did Suresh Raina's problem with the short ball, that was exposed a little too early. But with the addition of Yuvraj, India now have a middle order, consisting of three batsmen, who can not only clear the rope at will but have all played over 250 matches for India.
Especially in a major tournament like the World T20 and Asia Cup, experience is what matters and that trio certainly have that.
Change of roles
One notable observation from the six T20Is Yuvraj has played since his comeback tells you that he has bowled more balls than faced them. While he has only batted in three of the six innings and has scored just 25 runs with a top score of 15*, he has bowled at least an over in five of the six matches.
While his two wickets show that his nine overs haven't always been threatening, it also highlights the change in how Dhoni sees Yuvraj. Although the southpaw has always been a dashing batsman, who can contribute with a bit of useful left-arm spin, the fact that Dhoni has gone to Yuvraj in almost every game with the ball implies that he sees him more as an all-rounder than as a top-order batsman.
With both openers in good form, Virat Kohli's ability to seemingly never get out in T20Is and Raina's return to form, moving Yuvraj into the top four seems unwise. While the only place he could play is No.4, the fact that despite his explosive hitting, Yuvraj still needs time to settle in, as was evident in the final T20I against Australia, means he is better off, where he is.
With India playing just four front-line bowlers and also having an inexperienced all-rounder in Hardik Pandya in the side, India will need Yuvraj's tight bowling more than his batting, as all of India's top seven, including Pandya have shown that they can clear the boundary at will if the situation demands it.
Team must always come first
While he might not win India matches with the bat or ball, in the position that he currently occupies, that is because India don't need his match-winning ability. Rather, they need his experience, his ability to bowl tight overs in conditions that suit spin bowling and occasionally hit a few out of the park and bring his fans some joy.
That might not necessarily please all his fans, but that is what the team situation demands and no matter how good the player, the team must always come first. And Yuvraj of all players needs to understand that.
While those playing the devil's advocate might suggest that on a difficult pitch like Pune, when the team loses early wickets, it is better to have an in-form Yuvraj, who has faced a few balls rather than one who seldom gets to bat, that is unlikely to occur often and if it does, that is when Yuvraj's superior experience should guide him through and help his side post a decent total.