Yuvraj Singh could well be facing a quarter life crisis. For at 27 years and 115 days old, Yuvraj is having to play a constant game of catch with the promise he had shown in the early days of his career. What would leave many of his fans nonplussed is how someone so prodigious in the one day format of the game, can more often than not, look so woefully at sea when confronted by the tide of test cricket.
It must be conceded in Yuvraj's favour, that at the start of his test career, he always played with the pressure of knowing that his inclusion in the side was always an arrangement for the short term. But then history has waxed eloquent of folks who have challenged the odds. In Yuvraj's case, other than for a superb century in the second test of the historic Indian tour to Pakistan in early 2004, he has hardly ever been guilty of such an assault. And so a poor showing at home against Australia in late 2004 brought the curtains down on scene one of Yuvraj's first act in test cricket.
Act two also proved to be short-lived, as Yuvraj struggled to cope with the rigours of test cricket, both at home against England and on tour to the West Indies in 2006. Once Sourav Ganguly made his way back into the test side in late 2006, it was always going to be a waiting game for the talented southpaw. Meanwhile a consistent showing in one day cricket and some spectacular performances in 20:20 meant that Yuvraj would always have another throw of the dice at the number six position in tests. With Ganguly's eventual retirement in 2008, one would have hoped for a seamless transition between the two left handed batsmen.
On the evidence of a solid fourth innings effort by Yuvraj with Tendulkar, in successfully chasing a record target set by England at Chennai in the first test in December 2008, it seemed as if that hope had finally come to fruition. But scores of 22, 0, 54 (not out), 9 and 40 in the ongoing test series in New Zealand have once again shown the fragility of hope when it comes to our man in question. Yuvraj has just not been able to capitalize on the opportunity provided by a relatively inexperienced and weak New Zealand bowling attack.
For a lad who averages 36.16 in test cricket, with an average of 43.93 runs at home – it would be tempting for the selectors to pick him should the next test series played by India be at home. But nothing could be further from a clear cut case of delusion. In the five countries outside of India that Yuvraj has played test cricket, he averages 4.25 in Australia, 31.25 in New Zealand, 17.33 in West Indies and 18.50 in Zimbabwe. Pakistan has been the only saving grace on his report card, as he averages a robust 57.28 in that country.
The problem is not as much a case of temperament as it is of technique. Clearly, he belongs to the international arena. His stroke play is pleasing to the eye and when in full flow, his presence deflates the opposition. But it is the manner in which he gets out that leaves him vulnerable to the challenges of test cricket. Of the 39 times that Yuvraj has been dismissed in test cricket he has been out caught 27 times and most of these dismissals have been behind the wicket either in the slips or by the wicketkeeper. This only suggests that Yuvraj seldom plays straight or with the full face of the bat and is more inclined to steer the ball which is a habit of the one day game. The sacred virtue of 'playing within the V' appears to have escaped his cricketing curriculum.
With the likes of Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina, Subramaniam Badrinath and Cheteshwar Pujara waiting anxiously in the wings, it is a matter of time before the door is permanently shut out on Yuvraj in the premier format of the game. One day cricket may have got the cricketing fraternity abuzz with his potential but it is test cricket that shall determine his position in the anthology of Indian cricket.
Sourav Ganguly at the time of announcing his retirement had stated that he would be sacrificing a couple of years in the interest of promoting fresh blood into the side. On that count alone, it is needed of Yuvraj to stand up and make sure that Dada's decision to quit was entirely justified.