“Honestly, I got out to Hansie Cronje more than anyone. When we played South Africa, he always got me out more than Allan Donald or Shaun Pollock. It wasn’t that I couldn’t pick him. It’s just that the ball seemed to go straight to a fielder.”
So the most revered batsman of our time admitted to have been troubled by someone whose bowling was as innocuous as Tendulkar’s willow these days. Odd, but true. For the record, the late South Africa skipper got the better of the maestro on five occasions. James Anderson, Brett Lee and Muttiah Muralitharan have had his number on more occasions but, for some reason, Tendulkar chose to single out Cronje for special praise.
So what’s it about bowlers like Cronje, Mohinder Amarnath, Chris Harris, or even Yuvraj Singh that make them inscrutable at times. Why are (were, in most cases) they so effective, especially in limited-overs cricket? They never breathed fire. Has it got something to do with the innate harmlessness in the delivery stride, military-medium pace and the pressure created by the wicketkeeper standing up to the stumps?
During Thursday’s Twenty20 game in Pune, MS Dhoni introduced Yuvraj as late as the ninth over. England were off to a flier and threatening to run away with it before the ‘pie-chucker’ was summoned. He conceded five singles in his first over before picking up three wickets off the next 10 deliveries.
England never quite recovered from that ‘triple jolt’ and finished with only 157 on the board. If not for his once-condemned ‘left-arm filth’, India would have had to chase a target in excess of 200.
Luckily for India and Dhoni, Yuvi the bowler is helping Yuvi the batsman. In that respect, all-rounders are a lucky bunch: when they don’t fire with the bat, they make amends with the ball, and vice versa.
Truth is Dhoni is now using Yuvraj frequently, not just as a part-timer but as a regular fourth bowler. He is now giving India more options. For instance, Dhoni could well play Rohit Sharma or Ambati Rayudu instead of Ravindra Jadeja in Saturday’s second Twenty20 game at the Wankhede Stadium. With Yuvraj bringing in the balance, the Indian captain is spoilt for choice.
The other factor going in Yuvi’s favour is that batsmen seem to have a muddled approach against him. They are neither here not there. Should we see him off? Nah, he’s a part-timer; let’s take him to the cleaners. The batsmen, more often than not, tend to attack him. And that leads to their downfall.
As a bowler, Yuvraj is as harmless as a kitten. He relies more on fastish left-armers and change of pace. Accuracy is his forte. It wouldn’t be wrong to brand him the new or next Shahid Afridi. Come to think of it, Yuvraj has been a different bowler since the start of the 2011 World Cup. Maybe it had to do with the faith shown by Dhoni. Unlike in the longer version, he’s more proactive in ODIs and T20s. Whatever the case may be, India are benefiting big time. If only he could be so versatile in Tests.