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.


Buck stops with Juan Antonio Pizzi for Saudi Arabia’s ‘shameful’ World Cup defeat to Russia

Updated 17 June 2018
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Buck stops with Juan Antonio Pizzi for Saudi Arabia’s ‘shameful’ World Cup defeat to Russia

The vice president of the Saudi Arabian Football Federation said the future of Juan Antonio Pizzi will not be discussed in the media as the Green Falcons try to get to grips with the “bitterness” of the heavy defeat to Russia on the opening night.
Saudi Arabia suffered their second heaviest defeat in World Cup history when the hosts put five unanswered goals past them at the Luzhniki Stadium.
Federation president Adel Ezzat called the performance “totally unsatisfactory” while General Sports Authority chief Turki Al-Sheikh labelled the effort “a total fiasco.”
Pizzi took his share of responsibility for matters, calling the outcome “a shameful situation” and former Green Falcons international Nawaf Al-Temyat concurred that the buck stops with the coach.
“The coach is technically responsible for the loss of our team,” said Al-Temyat in a video interview published on the Saudi Arabian Football Federation Twitter account.
“You are well aware that we cannot discuss the decisions taken by the coach during the match and the actions to be taken before the media.”
Saudi Arabia enjoyed 60 percent of possession, but failed to muster a single shot on target. Russia were more clinical in both boxes and the Green Falcons struggled to cope with their directness.
“We lost on the style,” Al-Temyat said. “We allowed them to impose their way of playing that differs from ours, and it is physical. The ball acquisition was null. It is a technical issue that needs to be addressed. They did not cooperate together as required.”
Saudi Arabia need to pick themselves up before facing Uruguay on Wednesday, but Al-Temyat believes it may take a while to get over the Russia game.
“We should not forget what happened and the bitterness of what happened (on Thursday), but this should be addressed in a proper way that reflects the players, the administrative staff and the national team,” he said.