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Should Yuvraj Singh retire or no?

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Yuvraj_Singh_India_IPL_Kings_XI_Punjab_CricketThe issue of when to retire from sport is a question that most sportsmen face. Human nature being what it is, most sportsmen tend to prolong their careers, especially with the remuneration available today. This means most sportsmen carry on longer than they should and face the ignominy of being dropped from their teams.

It is unfair to pin blame solely on the player himself. After all, that is what a player has been doing for most of his life. There will naturally be a tinge of sadness when he calls it quits from the highest level of the game.

Yuvraj Singh has been one of India’s all-time great batsmen in the shorter formats of the game. He also bowls useful left arm spin and was electric in the field in his younger days. However, all good things come to an end. India need to take a decision about Yuvraj with the 2019 World Cup in mind.

There is no doubting Yuvraj’s courage, class and commitment to the team’s cause. He played the entire 2011 World Cup with undiagnosed lung cancer. Even after being diagnosed with cancer, he made a brave comeback and fought his way back into the side.

This is in no way suggesting that Yuvraj should be viewed through a prism of sentiment alone. He deserves far better than that for the stellar performances he has put in for India. Yuvraj is currently 36 and will be 37 by the start of the 2019 World Cup in England. Even Sachin Tendulkar played his last ODI for India at the age of 38.

Tendulkar had a great technique to fall back upon, whereas Yuvraj relied on hand eye coordination. He is more of a ‘See ball hit ball’ kind of player. Moreover, the eyesight of batsmen deteriorates once they enter their mid-30s. A decision on whether Yuvraj can play a part in India’s 2019 World Cup campaign should be made purely on merit of his performances alone.

There is no question that Yuvraj’s career has been in steady decline since India’s victorious campaign in the 2011 World Cup. India has played 166 ODIs since the 2011 World Cup and Yuvraj has featured in just 30 of those. The reasons for that have been injury, illness and bad form.

From his ODI debut on 3rd October 2000 till the conclusion of the 2011 World Cup, Yuvraj played 274 ODIs and scored 8,051 runs at an average of 37.62. He also took 109 wickets at an average of 37.24 and an economy rate of 5.04. These are brilliant figures when you consider that he is the 5th bowler in the team.

Post the 2011 World Cup, he has scored just 650 runs in 30 ODIs at an average of 27.08. He has lost confidence with the ball, taking just 2 wickets at a horrendous average of 117 and an economy rate of 6.5, having bowled just 36 overs in these 30 ODIs.

For most of his ODI career, Yuvraj has batted at number 4 and number 5. Since the 2011 World Cup, he has batted only at these 2 positions. In this time, there have been 179 batsmen who have batted at numbers 4 and 5 in ODIs among the top 10 Test playing nations. The combined average of these players is 37.28, 37.66% more than Yuvraj’s batting average. This shows how far off the boil he has been in ODIs.

There have been just 33 players from the top 10 Test playing countries who have played in the ICC Cricket World Cup past the age of 37. Just 14 of those have played in World Cups since the 2003 edition. Out of these, 12 have been batsmen and even greats like Alec Stewart, Mahela Jayawardene, Younis Khan, Inzamam-ul-Haq and Aravinda De Silva have mediocre records. This shows that at the top level of cricket, the fitness of a younger body is essential to success.

Even in T20Is, Yuvraj made his comeback in Australia in January 2016. Prior to his return, he had played 40 T20Is and scored 968 runs at 31.22 and a blistering strike rate of 144.69. After his comeback, he has scored just 209 runs in 18 T20Is at a paltry average of 19 and a pedestrian strike rate of 107.73

So. Without being harsh, Yuvraj has had a terrible run in international cricket over the last few years and there is no doubt that he is past his best. He has publicly stated that he wants to play on at least till the 2019 World Cup. There is a lot of competition for spots in India’s middle order with KL Rahul, Rishabh Pant, Dinesh Karthik, Manish Pandey, Ajinkya Rahane, Kedar Jadhav and Suresh Raina all vying for a couple of places. The odds appear to be against Yuvraj making a comeback.

A number of discarded and out of favour players have made successful comebacks to their national teams by turning in good performances in the IPL or in their domestic T20 leagues. The table below gives Yuvraj’s batting stats in the IPL from the 2016 season onwards.

 

Season

Matches

Runs

Batting Average

Batting Strike Rate

Fifties

2016

10

236

26.22

131.84

0

2017

12

252

28

142.37

2

2018

 6

 50

12.5

89.28

0

 

He has acquitted himself reasonably well in the 2016 and 2017 seasons but has had a horror run in the 2018 season. He faced the ignominy of being dropped from the KXIP team for the match against SRH on 26th April. In the first 6 matches, he batted 4 times and could muster a high score of just 20. The adage that form is temporary and class is permanent may hold true, but Father time waits for no one. It looks difficult for Yuvraj to force his way into the Indian team based on current form.

There is no doubting Yuvraj’s place in the pantheon of all-time great limited overs batsmen. However, he is clearly past his best and doesn’t deserve to be included in India’s squad for the 2019 World Cup. The message should be conveyed to him and he should be given the opportunity to retire with dignity and grace. This would be a fitting end to an illustrious career.

 

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