T20’s original trailblazer Yuvraj Singh in danger of being left behind by IPL

In six innings for Kings XI Punjab this season in the IPL, Yuvraj Singh has eked out a dismal 65 runs. (AFP)
Updated 17 May 2018
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T20’s original trailblazer Yuvraj Singh in danger of being left behind by IPL

  • From the heady heights of 6 sixes of Stuart Broad in 2007, Yuvraj Singh has failed to light up the IPL
  • In six innings for Kings XI Punjab this season, Singh has eked out a dismal 65 runs

BANGALORE: Who let the Twenty20 genie out of the bottle? If that was a quiz question, the most common answer would be Lalit Modi, who first envisioned and then implemented the Indian Premier League (IPL). But that is not really the correct response.
Modi became a vice president and one of the most influential officials of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) in late 2005. Even when the India team journeyed to the Caribbean in March 2007 to contest the World Cup, the IPL was not a dot on the horizon.
Nearly four years after England started its domestic Twenty20 competition, and Australia, Pakistan and South Africa followed suit, India showed no inclination to embrace what was considered a hit-and-giggle format. The standard response from BCCI office-bearers, Modi excepted, was derision.
That they then held a domestic T20 tournament in April 2007 was down to circumstances, and not any real desire. The team’s shocking World Cup exit, after losses to Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, had left a huge hole in the calendar and the hastily arranged tournament saw some suitably chastened superstars in action.
But attitudes did not change. At the end of a marathon tour of England in September 2007, several senior players including Sachin Tendulkar were not included in the squad for the inaugural World Twenty20 in South Africa. MS Dhoni, who had been a regular in the side for just two seasons, was made captain of a youthful side that journeyed to the southern cape with no great fanfare.
Then, Yuvraj Singh happened. The six sixes off Stuart Broad in Durban, after Andrew Flintoff had made the mistake of riling him with words, changed everything. Overnight, from being conscientious objectors, a huge chunk of Indian cricket fans embraced T20 adrenaline.
Yuvraj did not stop there. A 34-ball 70 inspired victory over mighty Australia in the semifinal. Again, the fluency with which he teed off captured imaginations, and the final against arch-rivals Pakistan became one of the most watched events in India’s TV history.
Within months, Modi’s blueprint, which dozens of people had turned down for over a decade, became lucrative, multi-billion-dollar reality. And all because a young man did not take too kindly to being sledged.
When the IPL began, Yuvraj found himself on home turf with Kings XI Punjab. But the heroics that triggered a sea change in the way Indians viewed cricket proved frustratingly elusive. In three seasons with Punjab, he managed just three half-centuries. Then came an underwhelming stint with the now-defunct Pune Warriors, after he had inspired a World Cup win and beaten cancer.
Bangalore broke the bank for him in 2014, paying 140 million rupees ($2 million). But after a decent season (376 runs), he went back under the hammer, with Delhi Daredevils shelling out an eye-watering 160 million rupees. He failed miserably there, and then spent two mediocre years in Hyderabad.
By then, he had already been pushed to the fringes and beyond with the Indian team. His treacle-slow innings was a big factor in India’s loss in the World Twenty20 final against Sri Lanka in 2014, and other white-ball comebacks too did not last despite the odd flash of past glory.
But this latest return has been the biggest misstep of all. In six innings for Punjab this season, he has eked out a dismal 65 runs. On Wednesday night, after a magnificent 94 from KL Rahul had set the game up, Yuvraj made a three-ball one, having been sent out to bat after Axar Patel and the hopelessly out-of-sorts Marcus Stoinis. Punjab lost their fourth game on the bounce, by three runs, leaving their qualification hopes in near tatters.
As with Neymar, the fees forked out for Yuvraj down the years would have helped administer a small island nation.
But unlike the mercurial Brazilian with nomadic feet, Yuvraj has seldom delivered on T20 fields. The promise of Durban remained just that. The man who should have been the poster boy of the new league proved to be anything but.
And after the wretched few minutes last night, it would be a major surprise if the IPL saw him again. The player who changed everything has seen the game pass him by.


Joan Oumari makes case for Lebanon causing Asian Cup shock

Updated 18 October 2018
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Joan Oumari makes case for Lebanon causing Asian Cup shock

  • Lebanon have made it to their first Asian Cup since 2000 and are up to 77th in world rankings.
  • Oumari feels the Cedars have what it takes to upset a few of the big guns.

LONDON: While much of the focus ahead of the Asian Cup will be on defending champions Australia, who are one of the favorites, along with Japan and South Korea, Lebanon’s Joan Oumari is hoping his side can grab people’s attention and cause a shock or two.
The Cedars’ last appearance at the tournament came back in 2000 when they were hosts — this is the first time they have qualified for the tournament on merit.
Since their FIFA world ranking fell to 147 in 2016, Lebanon have been one of Asia’s most improved and in-form teams, with their ranking jumping to its current position of 77 — the highest in their history.
Drawn alongside regional heavyweights Saudi Arabia, Qatar and North Korea in Group E, it will not be easy, but Oumari, one of their star players, is convinced they can put on a show when the tournament gets under way in January.
“I think when we play and stay like we are now we can go far,” the defender told Arab News. “In football everything is possible and we have a great team.”
Oumari knows that just being back at the Asian Cup after a 19-year absence is already a victory for the nation of six million people.
“For sure it is a great thing for us as a national team, but also for all the people (of Lebanon),” the 30-year-old said. “I hope we will write history and get very far in this tournament.”
Oumari’s journey to play for the Cedars is an interesting, and not unfamiliar one in the recent climate of war, family displacement and refugees. His parents, both born in Lebanon, fled the country during the civil war of the 1970s, making their way to Germany, where Oumari was born in 1988.
Starting his professional career in the lower divisions, he gradually worked his way through the professional tiers of club football in Germany, playing for SV Babelsberg in the fourth division, FC Rot-Weiß Erfurt in the third tier, before making the step up to FSV Frankfurt in 2.Bundesliga in 2013.
Along the way he came to the attention of the Lebanon Football Association, and when the invitation came to join the Cedars in 2013, there was no hesitation in accepting and representing the country of his heritage, if not his birth.
“When I got the invitation from the national team for sure I didn’t have to think about it,” he recalled. “I was very proud to play for the national team.”
His debut in a 2-0 win against Syria in September 2013 did not go to plan, however, getting sent off late in the game. His next appearance would not come for almost two years after Miodrag Radulovic had taken over as coach.
“To be honest it was my decision not to play for the national team for these two years,” he said.
“The main reason was our ex-coach (Giuseppe) Giannini, because after he invited me to the national team I was on the bench and I am not used to flying all over the world just to sit on the bench.
“I am not a player who sits on the bench in my club and not in the national team. After Mr. Radulovic started at the national team the federation called me and convinced me to come.”
The change in fortunes for the Cedars since Radulovic took over has been remarkable, and as it stands they are one of the most in-form teams in Asia, going 16 games without a loss dating back to March 2016.
A friendly match with defending Asian Cup champions Australia in Sydney next month will be sure to provide tougher competition, but given their form they travel to Sydney confident of causing an upset.
While the Asian Cup is within touching distance, Oumari’s immediate focus is on club matters and trying to help his side avoid relegation. Having made the move to Japan’s Sagan Tosu, becoming the first Lebanese player to play in the J.League, Oumari has been in and out of a side that has struggled for consistency and currently lie 17th in the 18-team league.
“I hope that we can avoid relegation and stay up, that’s why I came to help the team,” he said.
One of his new teammates in Japan is Spanish World Cup winner Fernando Torres, and despite the team’s struggles on the field, Oumari is loving his time in Japan.
“It’s really nice here and I like it very much,” he said. “I am enjoying the time with my teammates after training. For sure Fernando (Torres) is a great football player and any football player can learn from him no matter which position you are playing.”