When Yuvraj Singh had played the belligerent knock of 150 runs in only his second One-Day International after returning to the team following a three-year gap, hopes were high that the southpaw has finally found his mojo in the Indian jersey.
One of India’s biggest match-winners in the shorter formats of the game, Yuvraj Singh’s career had taken an unfortunate turn when he was diagnosed with cancer just months after playing an integral part in India’s victorious campaign in 2011 World Cup. But fortunately, the 35-year-old came out unscathed in his war against cancer and made a remarkable return to the cricket field.
Since then, he was getting chances every now and then to prove himself at the international level once again. However, the left-handed batsman struggled to get going in the famous blue jersey but seemed to have cemented his place in the ODI team after his 150-run knock in his comeback series against England earlier this year. His quickfire half-century in the opening game of the just-concluded Champions Trophy further gave hopes that he has hit the top gear.
However, the star batsman has struggled to replicate his best form since then. After scoring 7, 23* and 22 in the following matches of the tournament, he failed to get back to form in the ongoing ODI series against Windies where he has managed scores of four and 14 in the first two games. Moreover, the way he struggled to get going in this year’s IPL, it is quite clear that the Punjab-born cricketer is well past his prime.
With the next World Cup just a couple of years away, several former cricketers including the legendary Rahul Dravid has urged the selectors to reassess Yuvraj’s role in the team and also to look beyond him to find a suitable replacement. So here we are taking a look at five players who have the potential to replace the World Cup-winning star.
5. Suresh Raina:
Suresh Raina had become an indispensable part of India’s limited-overs team since making his comeback in 2008. However, a string of poor performances saw him getting dropped from the ODI team in 2015 and the 30-year-old is still waiting for a call from the selectors.
His last ODI appearance had come way back in October 2015 during the five-match series against South Africa. On the friendly pitches, the Uttar Pradesh star struggled against the Protea bowlers and was dropped from the team thereafter. In first three matches of the series- he registered a score of three in the first ODI followed by two ducks in the next two games. He scored a fifty in the fourth match but another failure in the final fixture was enough for the selectors to show him the door.
He was recalled for the ODI series against New Zealand in October last year but did not play a single game due to illness. However, he was handed a lifeline when he was recalled for the T20 series against England earlier this year and the southpaw fully capitalised on it by finishing the three-match series as its third highest run-getter with 104 runs.
He was ignored for the Champions Trophy but his performances in this year’s IPL, where he scored 442 runs in 14 matches, is enough to prove that he still has a lot to offer to Indian cricket.
4. Dinesh Karthik:
Despite being one of the most consistent performers in the domestic circuit, the wicketkeeper-batsman has still not cemented his spot in the national team. He had got ample chances to become a regular starter in the team in the past but he never managed to capitalise on the chances. However, his current form has once again put him on the selectors’ radar.
The 31-year-old was a part of the Indian squad for this year’s Champions Trophy but did not get a single game under his belt. However, his selection is a big indication that he is in the mix of things.
He had enjoyed a highly fruitful domestic season where he led Tamil Nadu to their fifth Vijay Hazare title by scoring 112 in the final against Bengal. He finished the 50-overs tournament as the top run-getter averaging 86.71 while scoring 607 runs in nine matches.
In the Ranji Trophy, he scored 704 runs in 10 matches at an average of 54.15. He continued his red-hot form in the Duleep Trophy as well where he scored 211 runs in the three games he played for India Blue.
He also led Tamil Nadu to Deodhar Trophy title by scoring 247 runs in three matches. His form in the IPL was equally impressive where he amassed 361 runs in 14 outings at an average of a shade over 36.
3. Rishabh Pant:
Seen as the next big thing in Indian cricket, Pant opened the innings with the India Under-19 team but his performances in the domestic circuit and in the Indian Premier League has shown that he is more than capable of excelling as a middle-order batsman.
The 19-year old hard-hitting batsman had come into prominence after blasting 308 off 326 balls against Maharashtra in Ranji Trophy last year. He finished Ranji Trophy with a staggering 972 runs in only eight outings including four centuries and a couple of the fifties. He was rewarded for the brilliant show in domestic circuit in the form of a maiden call for India’s T20I team during the home series against England.
He followed the successful domestic season with a good outing in the IPL for Delhi Daredevils and is currently in West Indies for the ongoing ODI series. The left-handed batsman is yet to make his debut in 50-overs cricket but considering his immense potential and the next World Cup in sight, the team should draft him in the playing eleven at the earliest.
Moreover, his inclusion can help MS Dhoni to bat at number four with much more freedom.
2. Manish Pandey:
Manish Pandey is perhaps the best option to try out as Yuvraj Singh’s replacement. The right-handed batsman from Karnataka is in the mix of things for quite a while now and his stunning match-winning century against Australia last year showed that he has got what it takes to excel at the highest stage of the game.
He has also performed consistently in domestic circuits and IPL and given his impressive track record, he should be handed more chances to prove himself.
1. KL Rahul:
Rahul has become one of India’s batting mainstays in Test cricket. He has forged a solid opening partnership with Murali Vijay in the white jersey but with Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma going really strong as openers in shorter formats, the Karnataka opener is unlikely to get a chance to open the innings in coloured jersey.
However, his performances in 2016 IPL as a middle-order batsman showed that he can do well lower down the order. He also batted at number four in T20Is against West Indies and scored a century last year.
Moreover, his ability to shift gears at will is just ideal for a middle-order batsman and India can certainly try him out as Yuvraj’s replacement.