Has Yuvraj Singh played his last game in the Indian Premier League? Has the time arrived for the 36-year-old southpaw to take a call on his career? Even as he wanted to wait till 2019 to decide on his future in cricket!
Great careers like that of Yuvraj are neither built on a single performance, a single tournament or a single series; nor can such larger than life performers be evaluated, or dismissed, on the basis a single performance, a single competition or a single season. However, Yuvraj’s omission in Kings XI Punjab’s exciting win over Rajasthan Royals on Monday is raising some serious questions on the future of one of the most prolific batsmen in the T20 cricket.
It is not the first time that Yuvraj has failed to find a place in the playing eleven. However, the Poster Boy of Indian cricket, one of the most entertaining cricketers across the world, one of the biggest entertainers to grace the game of cricket has seldom in the past faced a sequence of events that may leave him with some serious questions to answer. To himself!
If not for the Kings XI Punjab agreeing to bring their Poster Boy for the first three IPL seasons back home on a deal for his base price (₹2 crore), the IPL journey for Yuvraj might well have been over even before the first ball was bowled for the 2018 season. There were no buyers for T20 cricket’s first man to strike six sixes in a single over. In spite of averaging 28 and scoring at a strike rate of 142.37 for his 252 runs from 11 innings last season.
The champion this season has failed to match the high standards he would set for himself. His innings are turning out to be shorter and slower. Fitness was one of the key strengths of Yuvraj. Now the lack of it is emerging as one of his glaring weaknesses – no less than his poor run with the willow. A mere 64 runs from 5 innings and a strike rate just a shade above 90 are not acceptable from a key middle-order batsman, assigned the role of strengthening and speeding up the innings.
The poor performance has also dented his Moneyball ratings. For his 64 runs and ₹2 crore contract, Yuvraj has a disappointing 81 on impact Rank and 68th value for money ranking on the Moneyball IPL rankings for the season.
The IPL 2018 has also seen the fall of Delhi Daredevils captain – Gautam Gambhir. He decided to “step down as the captain, but to stay with the team and not to raise a fee bill to his franchisee for his annual IPL contract”. Yuvraj will be facing some pressure.
The hero of India’s maiden World T20 title triumph has failed to match his high IPL billings and bills. Ranked No. 5 on the Moneyball IPL career salary rankings, Yuvraj not for once in 11 years has been among the top 10 batsmen for the season. There has been class but no charisma.
His career IPL statistics would read, 127 matches, 121 innings, 2,651 runs at an average of 25 and 129.2 strike rate with 210 fours and 143 sixes. Suresh Raina with 4,801 runs is the lead run-getter for the league. Yuvraj’s best IPL knock is 83, the league leader Chris Gayle has struck 175 not out. Gambhir tops the chart for highest boundaries in the IPL with 491; Gayle has struck maximum sixes – 290.
The decline has begun after his ₹16 crore salary contract with Delhi Daredevils in 2015. The Moneyball chart and scores have gone down thereafter. The current season being his lowest ever – on performance and salary scales.
Ironically, the man who would walk into any T20 eleven on sheer goodwill has given Kings XI Punjab more than one reasons to go into the match without him. The team emerged the winner without Yuvraj.
Will Kings XI Punjab have another reason to give Yuvraj an opportunity to rise? Or, the IPL journey that has taken off with the Kings XI Punjab 11 seasons’ ago has completed a full circle for its last lap with the same franchisee, representing Yuvraj’s native State in the IPL.
Writing off a player of Yuvraj’s career can be a bad error of judgement. Players like Yuvraj are just one opportunity away from proving their critics wrong. How far away is he from that opportunity is the bigger question for now!