Yuvraj's Commitment vs Raina's Form: Who To Pick?
England and India kick start their test series this week with the first test being played at Lord’s but all fans and cricket pundits got an early taste of what is on offer in the recently concluded practice match of the Indians against county club Somerset at Taunton. The Indian bowlers failed to impress and the batsmen struggled to put bat to ball, but amidst all this chaos, Suresh Raina gave India their one bright spot for the match as he raced to an unbeaten century with 14 well crafted shots to the fence and 5 massive sixes to lift the visitors to 224 in the first innings. And now with just a couple of days to go before things get started at the Mecca of cricket, Captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni will face an arduous task of opting between Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina for the No. 5 spot in the first test. If form is anything to go by, then it has to be Raina who should play in the 11. Ever since the Carribean tour, this player has been in amazing touch with the willow and has been scoring runs consistently and at a good pace as well. The well timed hundred against Somerset will only strengthen his case. Add to it the fact that Yuvraj got dismissed for a duck against Somerset and one would feel that Raina has done enough to book a place in the playing 11.
But then, there is still a small ray of hope for Yuvraj Singh. It goes without saying that if India opt for Raina ahead of Yuvraj then they will go in at Lord’s without a slow left arm orthodox spinner in the side. There is perhaps no denial to the fact that Yuvraj Singh is at present the best bet against England’s top order batsman, Kevin Pietersen who has a history of trouble against left arm spinners and especially Yuvraj Singh whom he actually called a ‘‘Pie Chucker‘ a few years back in 2008 when England toured India. Kevin Pietersen is an integral part of England scheme of things and a dodgy Pietersen will by all means give an edge to the visitors in this high profile encounter.This certainly might work in favour of Yuvi when the skipper sits down to select the team.
That said ,it is undoubtedly going to be a headache for both skipper and the coach. Yuvraj or Raina: Both are left-handers, aggressive batsmen, both are brilliant fielders (Raina perhaps the better of the two, but Yuvi is not that bad either) and both worth a few handy overs of spin. Raina though has been pretty impressive in the Carribean and looked at ease against the county attack as well, but one needs to take into account that playing against Somerset and playing against a full strength England squad at Lord’s are two entirely different things. The conditions will vary, the pitch will have lots to offer to the pacers, he will be up against one of the best pace battery going around in international cricket at present and last but not the least, the pressure will be immense. So,the question is: “Will Raina be able to sustain this form against a potent English attack and more challenging conditions?”
On the other hand, we have a more experienced and flamboyant Yuvraj Singh who when at his best is without any doubts the better batsman of the two. Yuvraj showed his brilliance in the World Cup and it was a glittering example of what an in-form Yuvraj can do. This man has immmense talent and always gives the team a psychological edge over the opposition. His mere presence in the middle is so very intimidating. The presence of Yuvraj can make England flinch in the collective might of superstars in the visitors’ ranks and it will surely compel Andrew Strauss to make some significant changes in the lower middle order of the team because England’s lower-half is presently a parody of its top order. Though one might correctly argue that Yuvraj has exhausted the innumerable chances he has got in the past, one can’t deny that he has time and again proved that if backed at the right moment, he can deliver his best for the team. So MSD might just think of giving him one last go. Yuvi in the back of his mind must know that its a make or break situation for him. A chance here might save his test career and Yuvraj, if sidelined now, might not make a comeback and his otherwise glorious career might well get encapsulated in the shorter version of the game. The left hander deserves one last chance for a decent run and who knows he might just get bigger and better this time. After all,we would agree in unison that Yuvraj as a batsman packs more punch than Raina, doesn’t he?
Dhoni can put all this debate to rest if he can make Rahul Dravid open the innings with Gautam Gambhir. That would not only lend the much needed stability to the top order in the absence of swashbuckling opener Virender Sehwag but would also give him (MSD) the luxury of playing both Raina and Yuvraj. That said, one wonders whether Dravid will be at ease with his new role at this stage of his career. He has opened innings for India in the past but most of his crucial knocks have come while batting at No.3. Hence the team management won’t tamper his batting position in a high profile series like this. So that option pretty much gets out of the equation.
So it all boils down to the battle of two southpaws-Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina. The test spot is something which Raina must be wanting so badly at this stage of his career but he surely will be an integral part of the test squad in the years to come. But for Yuvraj, this might just be a DO or DIE situation and if given a go, he should serve India’s purpose with great vigour and commitment to not get axed again. Raina is in the form of his life and Yuvraj has shown a lot of promise in the past few months. Whether MSD goes with promise or sticks to form, that remains to be seen. But whatever it may be,the captain by now must have surely made his mind and the entire cricketing fraternity will come to know about it in a matter of few hours.