Mumbai: Yuvraj Singh came into the World Cup with questions over his fitness and form. The flamboyant left-hander has brilliantly responded to the challenge with an awesome all-round performance. From a back-up trundler, he has now become a regular fifth bowler and that has made him a genuine all-rounder.
Yuvraj regaining touch with the bat did not come as much a surprise as his coming good with his left-arm spin.
He has become such a dependable bowler that captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni has routinely looked up to him for breaking partnerships in the middle overs.
With experience, Yuvraj has evolved as a player and he has started showing the 'big-match' temperament that Dhoni effusvely talks of in his praise.
As a batsman Yuvraj looked a matured player in this World Cup. He batted with responsibility, appreciating the situation the team was in. Importantly, he has put a price on his wicket, refusing to throw it away playing fanciful shots. He has also learnt to respect the bowler and waited for an opportunity to get into an attacking mode. He is a real finisher now and the three unbeaten scores in the World Cup amply demonstrate his new found status.
His 58 off 50 balls with nine fours against England was a typical Yuvraj knock. His next two innings against Ireland and the Netherlands were less flamboyant and more productive as he curbed his attacking instinct.
His unbeaten 50 against Ireland came off 75 balls and had only three fours. India while chasing 208, were in trouble with four wickets down for 100, when Yuvraj put on 67 runs with Mahendra Singh Dhoni to take the team home.
Indian batting again wobbled against the Netherlands. Chasing a small 190-run target, India lost quick wickets after a good start and slipped to 139/5. Yuvraj took his time in the middle and worked the ball into the gaps. He scored an unbeaten 51 off 73 balls with seven fours.
He then came out with a cracker of an innings against the West Indies on a spinning Chennai track, scoring 113 to shore up India's total to 268.
In the quarterfinal against Australia, Yuvraj was again the pivot holding the middle order to chase a challenging 260. He hit an unbeaten 57 and together with Suresh Raina (34) stayed till the end to finish the match.
With 15 wickets, Yuvraj is the second highest Indian wicket-taker in the competition, sixth in the leading bowlers list, four spots behind pacer Zaheer Khan, who is the second in the charts with 21 wickets. Zaheer has as many wickets as Shahid Afridi but the Pakistan captain's average of 12.85 was superior to that of the Indian bowling spearhead (18.76).
Yuvraj has been economical and bowled with guile. He has taken the pace off the ball and hit the right length. Batsmen have found difficult to cart him.
Nobody realised that Yuvraj will have such an impact with the ball when he took five wickets against Ireland in the league match. But he looked determined to prove that it was not a one-off case. So much so that Dhoni relied on Yuvraj to bowl his full quota of 10 overs against Australia and Pakistan.
He was brilliant with the ball in the knock-out stages and took two wickets each in all the three games. He got the wickets of Asad shafiq and Younis Khan against Pakistan. He came in under attack against Pakistan when Umar Akmal chanced his arm.
Yuvraj was again at the forefront with the ball in the final against Sri Lanka. He broke the crucial stand of Kumar Sangakkara (48) and Mahela Jayawardene (103 not out) which was threatening to bat India out of the game. He got Sangakkara caught behind and then trapped Thilan Samaraweere lbw.
Yuvraj's success has given the Indian team management the luxury of playing an extra batsman and that means a lot in the One-day context.