Why do teams refuse to let go of the gone guys?
The high point of the DD-RCB match was when I spotted Dr Luthria in the aisles, for the first time not behind his desk. He waved as he passed me, "No use waiting, going!" It wasn't yet half time, but DD was down for the count. Even before a ball was bowled, it was clear the crowd would cheer players they admired - during the big screen intros, Gayle, Virat, AB, Starc (all RCB) received applause befitting of home boys; and only Yuvraj and Duminy (DD) got some acknowledgment from the Kotla. It mattered little that DD opener, Shreyas Iyer had knocked a whirlwind 83 off 57 balls barely three days ago on this very ground. Who was Shreyas Iyer? They did not know him. Who was his opening mate, Mayank Agarwal, they did not know him either. Aaah Duminy, yes, they knew him alright. And Yuvraj, they did sound like they knew him rather well.
Or is it the memory of Yuvraj Singh that they knew? It's been seven games and Yuvraj has two 2s, two 9s, two 20s and one half century to his name - 124 runs in all. Whereas Virender Sehwag has one duck, two 1s, an 11, in addition to a score in the 30s and 40s - 96 runs in six matches. Sehwag's highest, 47 (41) and Yuvraj's highest, 54 (39) were made in the same match. DD won that game, some guy called Mayank Agarwal was man of the match. But what does the Kotla care.
On 18th February, soon after Yuvraj was purchased for Rs 16 crore by Delhi Daredevils, I had written here - "Will Yuvraj score match winning runs? Debatable, but going by past seasons, doubtful too. Will he lead the side? Unlikely, he hasn't shown any such qualities before. Will the crowds line up to watch him? Yes goddammit, he's Yuvi."
This might have been true for the first few games but seven matches later, expectations if any, are low. During my first Kotla-visit this season, I spotted as many teenage groups in Gambhir shirts as Yuvi's No. 3. There still is a lot of chatter around Yuvraj, how a boy whose voice hadn't yet cracked, squeaked from behind, "Dekh lena, aaj Yuvi chalega, dekh lena". He repeated himself but who was listening? But also nobody mocked or laughed, there is still a deep fondness for Yuvi though quite different from the outright awe for AB de Villiers - a player on top of his and everyone else's game - at the Kotla, the only chorus was AB! AB! He was down at third man, and there was an almost languid quality to his half raised hand, almost Tendulkar-like - and that got the AB! AB! chorus further activated.
Can Yuvi be activated? How long before Kirsten's patience runs out, is there such a thing as Kirsten's patience running out? Are Manoj Tiwary and Saurabh Tiwary even seen as replacements? Is it a case of let's just play the Big Y and hope for the best - if he comes off, we stand vindicated, if he doesn't, it's not like he's doing any worse than the rest of the team, or is he? Manoj Tiwary has batted twice in four games, a 32 and a nought not out. CM Gautam has played just one game, four runs later he was dropped swiftly. It's not as if DD's bench is overflowing with recognisable Indian replacements.
Coming in at 36/2, at the fall of Duminy's wicket, Yuvraj "flashed hard" at his first delivery. Both this expression and the shot were dismal in equal measure. Yuvraj failed to make contact. In his brief innings of five deliveries, there was no attempt to defend. Like most players who are not AB de Villiers, Yuvraj too takes his time to settle. When he tries to hit himself out of trouble he only begets more trouble. Isn't that something out of the Old Testament of cricket? Why so non-serious, Mr Singh?
Oh right, this is the IPL, not really cricket is it? A tournament where last season's superkid, Manan Vohra continues to be benched for non-performing big name players like Sehwag and Murali Vijay. To Punjab's credit though, they dropped Glenn Maxwell after a run of Yuvrajesque scores, will DD make their move? Or are they afraid of Yuvi's papa?
First published here