By Sarah Waris
Yuvraj Singh, the architect of many memorable wins for India, began his IPL 2019 campaign with a 35-ball 53 against Delhi Capitals at the Wankhede Stadium on Sunday. His fine knock, after the rival team had scored 213/6, helped in reducing the margin of Mumbai Indians’ defeat to 37 runs. Though the 37-year-old was hailed for his aggressive intent after an indifferent season last year, a breakdown of his innings reveals that Yuvraj’s struggles are far from over.
Making his way to the crease with the scoreboard reading 37/2 after 5.1 overs, the need of the hour for Yuvraj was to settle down whilst ensuring that the required run rate was within control. However, the first few deliveries he faced against the seamers gave glimpses of an old star waging a lost battle, as he failed to connect the searing deliveries by Kagiso Rabada and Keemo Paul. The short deliveries were mistimed, the subtle changes in pace couldn’t be deciphered and the deliveries above 140 kmph were left unattended. Off the first eight deliveries Yuvraj faced against the duo of Rabada and Paul, he managed to score just seven runs - which was courtesy a four in the ninth over when the southpaw hit a short delivery, outside off, past the fielder at third man.
However, Yuvraj looked in trouble against the deliveries that were fired outside off and it was only when Axar Patel was introduced into the attack that he allowed his aggressive instincts to take over. The very first delivery that Yuvraj faced against Patel was swept away to short fine leg for a boundary and the over ended with two more hits to the fence - a perfectly timed six against a short delivery, outside off, and another sweep towards fine leg.
Yuvraj though was back to being his nervy self when Paul entered the attack in the very next over. He failed to get bat to ball against the slower bouncer, committing himself to the pull early twice in a row and even against Trent Boult, Yuvraj appeared to slog it out without any timing. However, as soon as Axar came onto bowl, the Player of the Tournament in the 2011 World Cup adorned a different garb - from a struggling hero, he turned into a beast who was ready to feast on anything that was flat and outside the off stump. His first six in the 16th over - a straight hit into the sight screen - took the cricket lover into the realm of nostalgia, where the destructive player had consistently wowed the fraternity with his nonchalance and effortless cover drives.
His assault off Patel’s bowling on Sunday wasn’t surprising. Overall, Yuvraj has faced 33 deliveries from Patel in IPL - smashing him for 63 runs at an average of 190.91. He has an even better strike-rate (243.75) against Chinaman Kuldeep Yadav and has got out to Ravindra Jadeja only once.
Yuvraj Singh’s strike rate against left-arm spinners in IPL
Axar Patel 190.91
Ravindra Jadeja 71.43
Krunal Pandya 350
Pawan Negi 150
Kuldeep Yadav 243.75
Shakib Al Hasan 42.86
Daniel Vettori 147.37
Pragyan Ojha 140
J Suchith 175
Against some of the best left-arm spinners in IPL, Yuvraj has been at his best and even against Delhi Capitals in his side’s tournament opener, he came with the mindset to go all out against Patel.
While his half-century can be applauded for its grit and intent to stay put even as the others were struggling to get going, the fact that Yuvraj struggled against the seamers can’t be ignored. With young Ishan Kishan - who scored 333 runs in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy - waiting in the wings, it remains to be seen what tactics Mumbai Indians employ with their warhorse. Though Yuvraj might be in the starting eleven for the next few games, it’s just a matter of time the remaining IPL sides decipher his strengths and weaknesses, and then it would be interesting to see how IPL 2019 pans out for Yuvraj.
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