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

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.


Russian athletics champ blasts own sports authorities

Updated 11 December 2019

Russian athletics champ blasts own sports authorities

  • Lasitskene, a three-time world champion, has in the past been critical of Russia’s athletics federation

MOSCOW: Russian high jump world champion Maria Lasitskene on Tuesday accused her country’s own sports authorities of failing to protect athletes from the deepening doping crisis, in a rare public broadside at top officials.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) on Monday handed Russia a new, this time four-year, ban from top global sporting events, including the next summer and winter Olympics and the 2022 soccer World Cup, for tampering with laboratory data.

The ruling means Russian athletes cleared to compete at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics will do so under a neutral flag. But Lasitskene and some other Russian track and field athletes face additional obstacles to being cleared for competition.

“I’ve already missed one Olympics and one-and-a-half years of international competition,” Lasitskene wrote in an open letter addressed to Russia’s sports authorities.

“And it seems that’s not the end of it. So who ultimately is to blame? Who’s going to give me back what I’ve lost?” she wrote in the letter published on Russian sports media outlet Championat.Com.

Lasitskene, a three-time world champion, has in the past been critical of Russia’s athletics federation, which has been suspended for doping since 2015, and has been one of the few Russian athletes to voice her anger publicly.

World Athletics, the global body governing athletics, last month halted the reinstatement procedures for Russia’s athletics federation after its president and six others were provisionally suspended for serious breaches of anti-doping rules.

As a result of these fresh sanctions, World Athletics also said it was reviewing the process it has used in the past to clear some Russians, including Lasitskene, to compete internationally as neutrals.

“Why have we arrived at a situation when an athlete is supposed to be delighted about getting neutral status?” Lasitskene wrote.

“Was the Sports Ministry and Russian Olympic Committee really happy with the Russian athletics federation’s work?”

The president of Russia’s Olympic Committee, Stanislav Pozdnyakov, on Monday dismissed the sanctions against Russia as inappropriate and excessive.