Yuvraj's axing a gamble by selectors
With the World Cup nearly eight months away, India, it seems, is still struggling to identify a core group of players for the mega 50-over tournament, says Senior Associate Editor Harish Kotian.
The Indian selectors have sent out a strong statement by axing Yuvraj Singh from the squad for the Asia Cup. But the move, it seems, is a big gamble, considering that all tournaments India plays in the next few months in the run-up to the World Cup, will only serve towards getting the balance sorted out.
By leaving out Yuvraj, one of their biggest match-winners in recent times, the selectors have not only created further problems for themselves, but also kept players and fans guessing.
With no domestic cricket at home, and no permission to play in the English county league, Yuvraj will need a miracle of sorts to make it to the Test side for the three-match series in Sri Lanka next month.
Equally baffling is the omission of pacers S Sreesanth, RP Singh, Munaf Patel, Ishant Sharma and Irfan Pathan, who continue to be kept out of not only the senior team but the India 'A' team as well.
One is not surprised, though, as the selectors are known to shuffle players around so as to instill a sense of insecurity among the fringe ones. Coming from five different zones of the country, their bias in selection is evident.
Here's a look at some big Indian stars who faced the selectors' ire in the last few years before making a return to the squad. Can Yuvraj emulate them?
Hard to imagine Indian ODI team without Yuvraj
It is not surprising that Yuvraj Singh finds himself out of favour in a World Cup year. The left-hander is going through one of the worst phases of his career, having failed to score a single half-century in 14 innings in the Indian Premier League and another five outings in the ICC World Twenty20.
Such was Yuvraj's impact with the bat in the last few years in ODIs, that it was hard to imagine an Indian ODI side without the charismatic left-hander. A string of recent injuries coupled with off-field antics have not gone down well with the Board and his axing is more of a warning to get his act right.
Without picking on any particular player, chief selector Krishnamachari Srikkanth pointed out that fitness was a key criterion while selecting the team for the Asia Cup.
"A lot of stress was given on the fitness of a player. Fitness and fielding are very important. In the recent past, we lost some matches or struggled in some matches because of poor fielding. So the selectors put lot of stress on fielding," he said.
While there is no doubting Yuvraj's talent, one hopes he gets his temperament right and fitness back. By now he should know there is always a youngster ready to pounce on opportunity.
Image: Yuvraj Singh
County cricket helped Zaheer
Yuvraj needs to look no further than Zaheer Khan for inspiration as far as his comeback plans are concerned. The pacer also found himself out of favour in 2005-06 after a disastrous tour of Pakistan, where he not only fared poorly with the ball but also had fitness issues.
But the left-armer didn't sit back and ponder. Instead, he headed straight to the English county league where he had a memorable season with Worcestershire, claiming 78 wickets, that paved his way back into the Indian team.
Since then he has improved tremendously as a fast bowler and now forms an integral part of the bowling attack along with Harbhajan Singh.
What is particularly impressive about Zaheer is the way he has worked on his fitness in the last few years despite a injury setbacks in between.
If India have done well overseas recently, especially in Tests, it is Zaheer who has played a big part in those triumphs.
Image: Zaheer Khan
Even Sehwag faced the axe
Virender Sehwag may have smashed a few records with his willow, but not so long back even he faced the selectors' ire.
There is no stopping the dashing opener when in full flow, but even he found it hard to get runs during a lean patch in his career in 2007.
He only made it to the Test squad in December 2007, for the Australia tour, after an injury to team mate Gautam Gambhir. And he seized the opportunity, helping India draw the fourth and final Test with a match-saving innings of 151, in the process curbing his usual explosive style and adjusting to the need of the situation.
He then continued his good form, scoring a whirlwind innings of 319 against South Africa, in Chennai in April 2008. It is the fastest triple century in Test cricket. He reached the landmark in just 278 balls.
He continues to maul bowlers worldwide in all conditions and enhance his reputation as one of the most dangerous batsmen.
Image: Virender Sehwag
Harbhajan also lost his way
As a youngster, even Harbhajan Singh seemed to have lost his way. He made his international debut aged just 17, but it was not long before he was dropped from the side over the legality of his bowling action. Added to that were a few disciplinary incidents, including being expelled from the National Cricket Academy in 2000.
But his career got a big boost when then captain Sourav Ganguly forced the selectors to include the off-spinner for the Test series against Australia. That choice proved a masterstroke as Harbhajan took 32 wickets in the three-match series, including a hat-trick, to inspire India to a thrilling series victory.
A few years later, Harbhajan suffered another blow when he was dropped after India's humiliating first-round exit from the 2007 50-over World Cup.
Just like Zaheer, he also went to county cricket and had a successful season for Surrey in 2007, which paved the way for a comeback to the Indian team.
Over the last two years, he was forced to watch a few games from the sidelines as India preferred to play just one spinner in Anil Kumble. But since the leggie's retirement from the game, Harbhajan has been entrusted the mantle of India's number one bowler, a role he has performed with great success.
Image: Harbhajan Singh
Ganguly's fighting qualities stood out
Sourav Ganguly's comeback story is one of the most talked-about in Indian cricketing folklore.
Just when it looked as if his cricketing career was past its sell-by date label, Ganguly scripted one of the most astounding comebacks ever seen in the sport.
India's most successful captain, he conquered almost everything before his batting started to give way, resulting in him being dropped and replaced as skipper by Rahul Dravid in October 2005.
His disputes with then coach Greg Chappell were no secret, and, at one point, both did not even see eye to eye. It finally resulted in Ganguly getting the sack in both forms of the game, this time a comeback looking next to impossible.
But Ganguly's fighting qualities stood out as he soon returned to the Indian team. He also found a berth in India's team for the 2007 World Cup in the West Indies. Coach Greg Chappell's resignation after the mega-event gave him another lifeline and he made sure he cemented his place with a string of consistent scores, including a maiden double century in Tests, in 2007.
The left-hander finally called it quits after the home Test series against Australia, in which he scored a century in the second Test in Mohali.
No one can deny the impact Ganguly made on the Indian cricket scene. Certainly, he deserves credit for transforming a team of mere performers to the world's best!
Image: Sourav Ganguly