It came as no surprise when Yuvraj Singh hit two sixes and three fours in a 21-ball 38 against England in the Twenty20 International in Pune on Thursday (December 20). What didn't come as too big a surprise either was the fact that he made the difference with ball in hand - after all, he has been the go-to man for Mahendra Singh Dhoni in limited-overs cricket for some time now, and has delivered more often than not.
The thing is, however, that no one quite knew why he picked up as many wickets, or why it was so difficult to score off him. Ask Eoin Morgan, the England captain, at the end of a match where Yuvraj picked three wickets for 19 runs in a four-over spell, and all he could do was laugh. "I've got no idea really," said Morgan eventually, having considered the question carefully. "He just did a great job, as he has done for years."
Ask analysts and they will talk about the high-arm action, wicket-to-wicket lines where he hit when the batsman didn't, changes of pace and length and so on. They must be right, of course, but Yuvraj himself wasn't any more sure about his bowling than Morgan was. "Even I am not sure why I get so many wickets," he said, laughing louder than Morgan had.
But he agreed somewhat with popular opinion, at least as far as the night in Pune was concerned. "Initially we were bowling faster and it was easier for them to hit the ball," he said. "I tried to slow it down a bit and that's how I got those two-three wickets."
Indeed, when it comes to limited-overs cricket, Yuvraj is a different beast altogether. He felt it was because he was able to play freely and express himself in the shorter formats, as opposed to the five-day game. And what that meant, as Morgan accepted, was that with Yuvraj, "there's always a danger factor attached because he can clear the ropes and he can go berserk, like he did in that one over (off Danny Briggs) tonight."
More laughs were reserved for when he talked about the youngsters in the Indian T20I side - "I feel like a veteran these days" - but Yuvraj gave his vote of confidence to the "new crop". "Getting in new youngsters is good for the team, it also improves the fielding," he said. "Guys like Bhuvneshwar Kumar and (Parvinder) Awana have done really well in domestic cricket. It's good to experiment with the side. We have given chances to lots of youngsters and that's the way to go about it."
On to serious matters, and with a number of limited-overs matches lined up for India - against England and Pakistan - over the next month, Yuvraj felt it was crucial that they started the sequence with a win. "After the Test series, it was important to start on a good note," he said. "Losing in England 4-0 and then losing in India 2-1 was quite shattering. We now need to carry this momentum for the next few games. We need to win these important games."
For that to happen, Yuvraj needed to be fit and in form - his importance to India's limited-overs sides can never be overstated. "I was in bed a year back and I am getting better and fitter," said Yuvraj. "I have to work really hard for extra hours to be where I was in terms of fitness."
With performances like this, lack of confidence will not be an issue.
Story first published on: Saturday, 22 December 2012 10:32 IST