Opinion: Was Yuvraj Singh really unlucky to miss out on a long Test career for Team India?

Opinion: Was Yuvraj Singh really unlucky to miss out on a long Test career for Team India?

One thing which Yuvraj will certainly rue even after such a long international career is not playing enough Test matches for India.

Yuvraj Singh in Tests
Yuvraj Singh in Tests. (Photo by Rui Vieira/PA Images via Getty Images)

If we start naming the greatest players in limited-overs for India, former all-rounder Yuvraj Singh will certainly find his name in the list. The legendary batsman was the vital cog in the Indian middle-order for over a decade. The impact was such that India could not find his worthy successor for a long time in ODIs. However, one thing which Yuvraj will certainly rue even after such a long international career is not playing enough Test matches for India.

He recently posted a tweet saying, “Probably next life! When I’m not the 12th man for 7 years” in reference to his Test career, and how he could have played more. So, how unlucky was Yuvraj to miss out on a long Test career? In this article, we look at some of the key factors which led to the shortening of Yuvraj’s Test career.

Overall Test record

Batting Position
Span Inns Runs Avg 100/50 HS
Opening 2004-2004 2 15 15 0/0 8
5th 2005-2006 11 227 20.63 0/1 75
6th 2003-2012 44 1484 37.1 3/9 169
7th 2004-2011 5 174 43.5 0/1 77*
Overall 2004-2012 62 1900 33.92 3/11 169

Overall in the longest format, Yuvraj played a total of 40 Tests and scored 1900 runs in 62 innings at an average of 33.92. Clearly, these numbers don’t look impressive for a player of Yuvraj Singh’s stature. Yuvraj batted mostly at number 6 and slammed a total of three centuries and 11 half-centuries in his Test career. Interestingly, all of his Test tons came against Pakistan.

Tests played in absence of star players

Players who missed the Test Played by Yuvraj Singh
Sourav Ganguly 28 (17 after retirement)
Sachin Tendulkar 5
Rahul Dravid opening the innings 4
VVS Laxman 2
Parthiv Patel(WK) opening, Yuvraj at 7 1

Yuvraj was always like a backup for the star Indian players. He played most of his Tests when Sourav Ganguly was not part of the playing XI. This includes 17 Tests after the former captain’s retirement. When Sachin Tendulkar was out due to the tennis elbow injury, Yuvraj comfortably got a place in the Indian middle order. He played four Tests when Rahul Dravid played as an opener which created a vacant spot in the middle order. However, apart from that, he mostly missed the Test matches which India played.

He was quoted saying to Times now in 2020, “When I look back I feel that I would have wanted more opportunities to play Test cricket. It was difficult to get a spot amidst star players like Sachin, Rahul, Virender, VVS Laxman, Sourav – who started opening in those days. Landing a spot in the middle-order was difficult.”

One thing we might say is Yuvraj was probably born in the wrong era in terms of finding a spot in the Indian Test team.

Batting record for India at number 6 during Yuvraj’s Test career

Player Span Inns Runs Avg 100/50
Yuvraj Singh 2003-2012 44 1484 37.1 3/9
VVS Laxman 2003-2011 36 1477 52.75 3/11
Suresh Raina 2010-2012 22 701 33.38 1/7
Sourav Ganguly 2003-2008 19 577 33.94 1/4
MS Dhoni 2006-2011 11 518 57.55 1/4
MD Kaif 2004-2006 13 419 38.09 1/2

If we look at his numbers, Yuvraj batted the most at number 6 for India than any other player during his career. However, his performance could never justify his place, and help him earn a permanent Test spot. VVS Laxman did a good job at that spot which meant Yuvraj had to wait till Sourav Ganguly‘s retirement to play in whites.

What happened after Ganguly’s retirement

Once Ganguly retired, Yuvraj returned to the Indian Test team for the two-match series against England. His strong show in the five-match ODI series held earlier made his comeback more reasonable. VVS Laxman moved to number 5 then, and Yuvraj played at 6.

In the very first Test played in Chennai, Yuvraj played a match-winning knock of 85* in the fourth innings to help the team register a memorable victory. It looked like Yuvraj’s Test career was finally off the paddle. Sadly he could not perform on a consistent basis and soon lost his spot.

Career Stats after Sourav Ganguly’s retirement

Batting Position Innings Runs Avg 100/50 Highest
6 23 800 38.09 0/8 86
7 3 50 16.66 0/0 25

It can also be said that luck was also probably not on his side at that time. For instance, Yuvraj scored a fifty against Sri Lanka in the first Test of the three-match series in 2010 but got injured. In the second Test, Suresh Raina made his debut in place of him and slammed a brilliant hundred. Now when Yuvraj was fit for the third game, India persisted with Raina.

Players used at number 6 after Ganguly’s retirement

Player Inns Runs Avg 100/50 HS
Yuvraj Singh 23 800 38.09 0/8 86
Suresh Raina 22 701 33.38 1/7 120
Virat Kohli 9 404 44.88 1/3 116
VVS Laxman 6 309 103 1/3 103*

Though Yuvraj made his comeback again one year later in 2011, the big knocks were still missing. Later on, youngsters like Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara started making impactful performances. This meant the middle order could not accommodate Yuvraj, and his chances for a sustained career in the Test team gradually diminished.

India’s Test matches after Ganguly’s retirement Played by Yuvraj
Missed by Yuvraj
42 17 25

From Ganguly’s retirement to Yuvraj’s last Test, he missed a total of 25 Test matches for India. This was one phase for which Yuvraj can’t complain about missed opportunities due to heavy competition.

Conclusion

It’s clear from the timeline of Yuvraj’s career that it was extremely difficult for any player to get into that Indian middle order. However, whatever chances he got at that time, he failed to perform to his potential or prove his worth. He was given the long run as well after Ganguly’s retirement, but his prime days were spent warming the bench. Whatever the numbers suggest, India did miss seeing a player like Yuvraj flourish in the longest format.