An embarrassment of riches can sometimes prove to be a dilemma and that
is what the Indian team management is likely to face during the Test
series against England. In Bangladesh the Indians opted for the five
batsmen and five bowlers policy. Such was the nature of the opposition
that they could still put a total of 610 for three declared on the
board. But it is unlikely that the tour management will play a batsman
short in the three matches against England.
Given the vastly more
adverse wicket and weather conditions and the much stronger opposition
the Indians will have to field six batsmen and MS Dhoni as an insurance
against a batting collapse. Four specialist bowlers should suffice for
there are a couple of batsmen who can turn their arms over pretty
effectively and lend a helping hand.
Playing five batsmen in the Tests against Bangladesh meant that there
was no place for both VVS Laxman and Yuvraj Singh. But one of them will
have to man the crucial No 6 slot from where the chosen one will have
to build on a good start or play the rescue act should the top order
collapse in a heap. Given the fact that Wasim Jaffer and Dinesh Karthik
have so far come off one would like to think that their partnership
deserves a fair run in England and this means that neither Laxman nor
Yuvraj can hope to squeeze in at the top of the order particularly with
Gautam Gambhir waiting in the wings. Both Laxman and Yuvraj have gone
in first in Tests but it does look like their days as openers are as
good as over.
So this means that there are two claimants for the one remaining spot
and both have factors for and against them. Its hard to beat Laxman on
class, skill and experience while Yuvraj is known for his youthful
exuberance and free flowing batsmanship. One is known for his wristy
strokes while the other has earned a name for his bold, adventurous
shots. But then Yuvraj too has tightened up his technique and has
become more solid. He is seven years younger, is certainly a better
field and can lend a helping hand with his occasional left arm
spinners. But Laxman makes up for his comparative slackness in the
field by his image of a crisis man who has repeatedly pulled India out
of ticklish situations.
Going back five years ago to the previous tour of England Yuvraj while
being an integral part of the ODI squad he played a notable role in
the momentous NatWest Trophy triumph - had yet to graduate into the
Test ranks whereas Laxman had a moderate series averaging a shade under
40. As to current form it must be said that Laxman is clearly in front.
In his last seven Tests he has scored 437 runs at an average of 36.41
with a century and three fifties. Yuvraj in his last six Tests has
notched up just 168 runs at an average of 18.66 with a highest score of
39. But he proved to be an adept finisher in the matches against South
Africa and while the cynics might scoff that it was in the limited
overs game, it also underlined that Yuvraj is in good nick.
Touching upon the omission of both players in Bangladesh Rahul Dravid
said that sometimes tough decisions have to be taken in the larger
interests of the team. This time it is going to an even tougher
decision for the tour committee will have to decide who to pick between
the two players. It is just unfortunate that one will have to miss out
and in the current Lords Test Yuvraj has been the unlucky one. The
only way that both can find a place in the eleven is if the selectors
drop MS Dhoni and allow Karthik to double up as the wicket keeper. But
given Dhonis stature the tour management will be loath to do so unless
there is an appalling fall in his batting and wicket keeping standards.
Dravid has publicly backed Laxman to come good in the series. "I back
Laxman to have a big tour this time. The last time he didn't have as
great a tour as the other guys. I can see that he's determined to
correct it this time. He looks hungry," said the Indian captain.
Interestingly enough in the two first class matches before the first
Test both Laxman and Yuvraj were among the runs so it must have been a
tough choice before the selectors opted for the senior man. Yuvraj
expressed frustration at being left out but was philosophical all the
same. ``Its been frustrating but you need to understand that the
players before me have played a lot of cricket and deserve their place.
My time will come and I will keep working on my game, he said on the
eve of the first Test.
Yuvraj received support from an unexpected corner. Former Pakistan
great Javed Miandad is obviously a very enthusiastic Yuvraj fan
probably from the time he saw him notch up a fighting 112 in a losing
cause on a green top in the Lahore Test in 2004. Miandad made it clear
that the Indian team management would be shooting themselves in the
foot if they bench Yuvraj Singh for the Lord's Test. "It would be a
great folly to ignore a player of Yuvraj's calibre," he warned. "He is
a supreme talent, one of the best in the game today. Besides, he brings
the X-factor to the side with his fielding.
For the time being with Dravid inclined to back Laxman it looks like
Yuvraj has to wait his turn to don the whites while being an integral
part of the `Men in Blue' squad.