They say T20 is a young man’s game. It is ideally suited for the flamboyance and agility of ‘gen-next’ cricketers. However it seems this theory does not apply to the MS Dhoni-led India, which is currently the top ranked team in the shortest version of the game by the International Cricket Council (ICC).
The Indian team which is currently participating in the Asia Cup T20 in Bangladesh has five cricketers who are in their 30’s at this moment. Apart from the skipper Dhoni – who is 34, there is – Harbhajan Singh, Yuvraj Singh, Ashish Nehra and Parthiv Patel. Amongst them Yuvraj and Nehra are now the important members of India’s game plan and Dhoni wants to be patient with these ‘disciplined’ seniors.
After making a comeback in the T20 series against Australia, Yuvraj showed some glimpses of his vintage days during a tight run-chase against the Aussies at Sydney in the third and final T20 International (T20I) of the series. That day, thanks to Yuvraj’s late hitting, India managed to finish the match on a winning note.
The southpaw again came up with a crucial contribution on a green track in the Asia Cup opener against Bangladesh. India was tottering at 42 for 3 in the eighth over when Yuvraj came into bat. From that situation, he partnered Rohit Sharma and bailed India out of trouble with a 55-run partnership for the fourth wicket.
“He played a fabulous shot through mid-off. Even if he scored 15 runs, he got confidence. More he plays; he will become a different player. He needs a bit of time. It doesn’t really matter as to how many he scores but his approach was good. Few more like this situation will help us. I am not saying we want to lose three wickets but situations like these will help him [Yuvraj],” this was what Dhoni had to say about the contribution of ‘Yuvi’.
For the Indian captain, it is all about giving him some more time. Dhoni knows, for a player like Yuvraj, form is temporary but class is permanent.
Same theory applies for Nehra as well. He was also called in the Indian T20 side on the recent tour of Australia. On batting beauties Down Under, against some of the best T20 cricketers of the world, the Delhi seamer bowled some impressive spells. In the home series against Sri Lanka, Nehra was equally effective.
On a slightly helpful wicket, this 36-year old still has the ability to cause havoc in opposition camp. He showed this during the game against Bangladesh on Wednesday. The in-form Bangladesh top-order batmen found it difficult to see off his overs – forget about playing shots against him. According to Dhoni, it is only because of his discipline, the left-armer is successful, even at his age.
“It’s like these are the things I need to do and whatever happens, he will follows that. That is the reason, he is so disciplined and is playing at the age of 36 or 37,” Dhoni was saying, while praising Nehra.
The skipper even feels Nehra still has a lot to contribute for the country, especially in T20 format. “The format suits him. It will be difficult for him to play 50 overs as he needs to be on field for three to three and half hours. In this format, the kind of experience he has, it really counts. He effortlessly bowls at decent pace and can swing the ball. All of that helps us. That is the reason we want him to keep fit till the end of World T20. We have a lot of games to play,” he mentioned.
For these senior Pros, who are at the fag end of their careers, there is nothing left to be proved. Now it is all about getting support from the team management and prolonging their careers as long as they think, they can be useful to the team.
At the international level, Yuvraj and Nehra still have some unfinished business left, especially in T20 format and Dhoni knows how to get the best out of them.
(Sandipan Banerjee is a Senior Correspondent at Cricwizz.com)