| Yuvraj Singh raises his bat after completing his maiden century in Lahore on Monday. (PTI)
Lahore, April 5: On either side, it was a day for the Young Turks at the Gaddafi: Umar Gul rocked Team India with a career-best five for 31 and Yuvraj Singh authored a personal Test high of 112. Add Irfan Pathan’s career-best 49 and an extraordinary picture gets completed.
The talking point at the start of the second Test was, of course, Rahul Dravid’s decision to bat on a greenish wicket with moisture. Yet, Gul and Yuvraj turned the spotlight on themselves, with Pathan not far behind. Among others, the latter was cheered by his parents, Mohammed and a burqa-clad Sameem Bano.
Thanks to a mix of good deliveries and injudicious shots, the Indians were down for the count at seven for 147, but Yuvraj and Pathan — playing their third and fourth Test, respectively, — ensured a reasonably competitive total: 287.
Given Pakistan’s appalling overrate, which doesn’t speak highly of their strategy, stumps was pushed back by around 50 minutes and the floodlights became operational. By close, the hosts reached 61 for one in 23 overs.
Just yesterday, Yuvraj had told The Telegraph he wished to make an impact in Test cricket. He did exactly that and actually taught a lesson to his peers. He counter-attacked superbly and inspired the gutsy Pathan to play a gem of an innings.
More than that, Yuvraj brought some relief to Dravid, who would have been crucified had the tail not wagged appreciably. The stand-in captain, therefore, stands indebted to Yuvraj and Pathan, who creamed off 117 for the eighth wicket and, for almost two hours, put Pakistan’s version of the huddle on hold.
Ironically, despite such a fine maiden hundred, Yuvraj will probably have to be dropped — unless a different permutation is thought of — once regular captain Sourav Ganguly returns. “That doesn’t worry me.... I’m happy with whatever chances come my way,” he insisted.
Frankly, Dravid took the right decision as the much-vaunted line-up has to deliver in trying conditions. Moreover, the move wasn’t much different from Sourav’s at Headingley, in 2002. That wicket wasn’t as green, but the overcast conditions made life difficult. However, Sanjay Bangar stood firm and allowed the stalwarts to score big. India won by an innings.
Had Dravid not opted to bat (after calling ‘heads’), he would surely have been slammed for being defensive.
At times, then, captains do get into no-win situations. Inzamam-ul Haq didn’t mind losing the toss as he wanted to bowl.
“What would I have done' Well, if I had faith in my batsmen — and India, don’t forget, declared at 675 for five in their last innings — I would have batted,” opined former Pakistan captain Rameez Raja, currently the board’s chief executive.
Yuvraj, the toast of the Indian dressing room, acknowledged that “staying till the end” was a priority — fact is, he was the last out. “It became a pressure game because of the earlier batsmen, but I decided to play the way I do.... Irfan’s support was a boon, allowing me to continue my natural way....”
Emotionally dedicating his effort to his parents (Shabnam and Yograj), who have separated, Yuvraj said: “They have backed me the most.... At this moment, more than anybody else, I’m grateful to them.”
Yuvraj appeared to have strained his left hamstring towards the end of his innings, but informed he would take the field tomorrow. The heat notwithstanding, he isn’t one to miss out on action.