Yuvraj and Virender the faces of a daunting future
Sunday 30 June 2002
We knew about Virender Sehwag but no one had told us about Yuvraj Singh. When he received his man of the match award he did something most English cricketers would blush to do by referring to his mother, who had travelled from Chandigarh to see her son's first game at Lord's. She will have a good story to tell when she gets home. This 20-year-old former speed-skating prodigy took three wickets and scored 64 off 65 balls in a match-winning stand.
Yuvraj, who is a Sikh of course, wears his dark hair short. He sat at the end of his great day munching a chocolate bar and drinking lemonade. When he stood up you saw a substantial figure. He says he is 6ft 2in and if you disagreed you would not argue with him.
Unlike India's legendary batsmen he hits the ball very hard and very straight. "I was told to do so by my seniors. Everybody has their strengths," he says. Perhaps no one in India hits the ball harder, not even Sachin Tendulkar.
Yuvraj first appeared on the international scene during the Under-19 World Cup in Sri Lanka in 1999. He first played for India in the ICC Knockout in Nairobi in October 2000, putting out the Australians, no less, with 84 off 80 balls.
He was not picked for this winter's games against England – rumour had it that he was not dedicated when it came to training. But he watched the Tests. "I had a little idea of how they play," he says. His innings suggested he had a very simple but very effective idea of how to beat them: to aim to hit the bowling out of the park. It worked.
Sehwag, who is three years older than Yuvraj, would be in the contest for India's hardest hitting batsman. Before 10 overs had been bowled in the innings yesterday you could see that England's fielders no longer bothered to dash after the ball when he aimed it at the boundary. His fifty featured eight fours. It seemed to have taken fewer than its 48 balls, and if it took him the hour the scorers said, time seemed to pass more quickly.
Against England last winter he played the hardest reverse sweep anyone has seen square to the boundary off Ashley Giles. Mark Butcher at short leg did not see the ball. If it had hit him, it would have taken his head with it.
But in Bangalore when the humidity and cloud cover were like Headingley he was all at sea against swing. The forecast among the pundits was that he would spend much of this summer edging catches to keeper and slips.
Not yesterday. Sure, the clouds were high in the sky and the wicket was hard and good by English standards, but he did not give a chance until he was put down by Paul Collingwood at point, preparatory to being brilliantly caught on the midwicket boundary by Marcus Trescothick for 71 (one six, nine fours). It had consumed 85 memorable minutes and, if it hadn't been a matter of victory or defeat, the packed house would have called for an encore.
He is small, though not as small as Sachie, chunky and obliging. He deplores the comparison with Tendulkar, who, he says, is a god while he is a mere mortal.
But some of the shots he played yesterday were conceived in heaven: a straight drive two bounces into the boundary, a cross-wristed flick to midwicket and cuts so powerful that the boundary was conceded as the ball left the bat.
What the spectators at Lord's will always remember was the electrifying strokeplay of two young batsmen and their first sight of two remarkable talents.
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