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Yuvraj or Laxman? Selectors’ Dilemma.
by Partab Ramchand
Jul 20, 2007
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. It’s 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 Lord’s 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 Dhoni’s 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. ``It’s 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.

 
More Views by Partab Ramchand
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