CHENNAI: Hold the long-term questions, Yuvraj Singh has answered a few for the time being. His career-best innings of 150 in 127 balls is sure to silence the naysayers to his reinclusion in the one-day scheme of things. Yes, the Champions Trophy in England may be a different kind of challenge, but he can't be faulted for hitting everything England threw at him in the second ODI in Cuttack today.
Look at the situation before and after his 127-ball 150. When he came in, India were 22/2 and a few balls later 25/3. When he left after a barrage of bold hits to mid-wicket, it was 281/4 in 43 overs.
Making runs, getting them when they are needed, treating an attack with respect in the beginning before putting it to the sword: Yuvraj checked all those boxes at the Barabati Stadium. The timing of his innings was so perfect that it has possibly ended India's search for a no. 4 batsman ahead of the Champions Trophy, into which they go as defending champions.
Conditions in England are known to challenge batsmen who are unsure of where their off stump is because of the movement in the air. But the conditions, especially in limited overs cricket, have changed over the last few years. Traditionally, a total of 270 was more than enough on English pitches, but the the upper limit has shot up in recent years. Now 350-plus scores are chased down in international games quite frequently. If that is the case, Yuvraj will fancy batting at no. 4, the position he has graced in 106 of his 270 ODI innings.
Overlooked these days because of the impact Virat Kohli has had at no. 3 and the importance given to finishers lower down the order, no. 4 continues to be the pivotal spot in 50-over games. After aborting the strange experiment with Dhoni after the World Cup 2015 and not giving the likes of Manish Pandey, Ambati Rayudu or Kedar Jadhav enough opportunities in that position, this ODI series against England was the Team India’s last chance to see who fits the bill.
After Yuvraj’s exhibition of power and class at the Barabati Stadium, which lasted 40 overs and first tamed and then dominated the England attack, he seems to have answered the no. 4 question. The pitch was flat, the boundaries short and the bowlers unimaginative to the extent that they kept feeding him in his areas of strength, but the batsman still had to be at his punishing best to hog what was on offer. A player who can do that with his own and the team's back to the wall and ends up hitting 150, can't be benched immediately.
Rather, Yuvraj deserves special attention and that's what Yuvraj is likely to get when the selectors and team management sit down to discuss the probables for the Champions Trophy. Doubts over the opening combination remain. But the no. 4 spot has been taken care of. Not a long-term solution, but Yuvraj has the immediate questions to bed.