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Time for Yuvraj Singh, Virender Sehwag to sing the redemption song

Tuesday, 15 April 2014 - 9:10am IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: DNA
Yuvraj, Sehwag, Harbhajan and Gambhir will all be looking to carve their way back to Indian team through

Virat Kohli reckons the IPL is the perfect atmosphere for players to relax and enjoy themselves.

Well, that might be true for the cricketer who appears to be doing nothing wrong these days. However, come Wednesday, when the seventh edition of the high-profile league kickstarts in the UAE, four of India's biggest match-winners – Yuvraj Singh, Virender Sehwag, Harbhajan Singh and Gautam Gambhir – will be anything but relaxed.

Make no mistake, the upcoming IPL will go a long way in deciding when, or if, these four players, who were part of 2011 World Cup-winning team, will play for India again.

Let's rewind a bit. Stones were pelted at Yuvraj's house after India's loss in the World T20 final, some even asking him to consider retirement. Picked as a T20 specialist, the Prince showed glimpses of his old self in the 60 he scored against Australia.

Sadly, that was that. He's back under the spotlight, not for the first time, with his place in the Indian T20 team under considerable doubt. He last played an ODI in December 2013 in South Africa, and you'll have to go exactly a year back to find his presence in a Test match – in 2012, against England in Kolkata.

That he was picked for a whopping Rs 14 crore by the Royal Challengers Bangalore came as a huge surprise, and he'll have to deal with the pressure of proving his fat paycheck, too.

Sehwag is sailing on the same boat... nay, even worse. Out of favour with the Indian team across all three formats for more than a year, the 35-year-old was even dumped by his IPL franchise, Delhi Daredevils.

He was brought by the Kings XI Punjab for Rs 3.2 crore at the auction, and has made it clear that he wants to continue playing for another two-three years. The swashbuckling opener notched up 180 runs in the four matches for Delhi in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy as a warm-up to the IPL.

"Last season I did not score runs; but if I do well in the IPL, I may get a chance to come back in the national team," Sehwag said. In short, he's a long way away from giving up hope.

Ditto with his fellow Delhi opener Gambhir. The opener was dropped by the selectors after the England series at home early last year, and has been out since. Harbhajan Singh last donned an India jersey against the Australians at home in March last year.

Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Amit Mishra have since ensured it stays that way. The fact that both have been retained by their respective franchises -- Kolkata Knight Riders and Mumbai Indians – should help their confidence.

"It's a lifetime chance for them," former India coach Anshuman Gaekwad said. "These players haven't done well in international cricket in their last few outings, and the IPL is the right opportunity for them to tell the selectors that they still have it in them. Look, the IPL is a big thing, and it can bring them back into reckoning. They don't want to be caught napping," he added.

What can give that extra push to Sehwag and Gambhir is the poor form of India's regular opener, Shikhar Dhawan, who was dropped after the Bangladesh game in the World T20 to make way for Ajinkya Rahane. Rahane, too, did not quite set the stage on fire.

"Every team requires somebody at some point in time, whether due to form or fitness of the others. You never know when these players can get a call-up," Gaekwad said.

TA Sekar, director of GMR Sports, the owners of Delhi Daredevils, who has worked with Sehwag during his time in the franchise, feels that the league has provided the ideal platform for players to make comebacks in their national squads. Australia's Shane Watson and Mitchell Johnson, for example, have the IPL to thank for getting their international careers back on track.

"The IPL has always provided the perfect platform for players to make a comeback for their respective countries. All the four players have played enough cricket to know the importance of playing well in the IPL, and they'll be looking forward to doing that," Sekar said.

Former India batsman and selector, Dilip Vengsarkar, though, offers a different perspective.

"The format is totally different in the IPL. Thus, if you're looking at India's next tour of England, it will not help them at all. But everybody will be looking to be at the top of their games for the big money, and to continue their contracts with the respective franchisees next year," Vengsarkar said.

Either ways, this IPL may well turn out to be make-or-break for Indian cricket's four superstars.

Peformance in IPL
Gautam

Year M Runs HS Avg SR 100/50
For DD
2008-2010 40 1097 86 31.34 125.51 0/8
For KKR
2011-2013 48 1374 93 31.95 128.29 0/12

Sehwag
For DD

Year M Runs HS Avg SR 100/50
2008-2013 79 2174 119 29.37 160.32 1/15

Yuvraj
For KXIP

Year M Runs HS Avg SR 100/50
2008-2010 43 894 58* 132.05 0/3
For PWI
2011-2013 27 581 66* 128.82 0/2

Harbhajan
For MI

Year M Wkts BBI Econ SR 4w/5w
2008-2013 82 78 5/18 6.76 21.8 1/1


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