"Fernando to Yuvraj Singh, SIX, Caressed away for a six! Full and drifting down leg side, Yuvraj leans forward and flicks it away. Up, Up and over long leg. Pure timing and oodles of class."
That was cricinfo's live commentary text for Yuvi's 1st scoring shot today off the 5th ball he faced in the Vizag ODI. A distinct indicator that he is on course for the World Cup he is perhaps destined to put his stamp on.
Yuvraj carries on in that vein and brings the match to an abrupt end, racing from 73 to an unbeaten 95 in six deliveries four of which were fours and another six.
Once upon a time in my infanthood I used to be a Yuvraj Singh baiter; here's when I changed ends.
"21.2 Bandara to Ganguly, SIX, Imperious! 175th six for Ganguly. He waltzes down the track, backing away from legstump in the process, and sends the ball screaming over long off."
"21.5 Bandara to Ganguly, no run, Googly that lands on the middle stump line, Ganguly itching to come forward, spots the variation and defends. Good delivery that."
Time to turn to the man who nurtured the raw Yuvraj and remained unseparated with him at the crease today. Those two deliveries from the 22nd over of the Indian chase today neatly demonstrate the threat Dada poses to the spinners. He can come down the track every now and then and yet remain uncommitted to the now-famous lofted drive that has returned more sixes than any other in modern one day cricket.
The trick he does better than everyone else in world cricket barring Lara (and that includes Sachin) is to remember playing the ball on its merit. It lets the bowler know that there's only one guy that can win the contest.
The other day Sachin got out to a similar one (it was a normal leg-spinning delivery but then Sachin bats right handed) from Bandara at Rajkot. I recall even part time bowlers using this 'early commitment syndrome' of the Little Master to pull down an unexpected shutter on some unfolding Sachin masterpiece. None of those recollections is more vivid than Mark Waugh's leg stump wide at Mumbai in the World Cup clash against Oz in 1996 which stumped a rampaging Sachin at a blistering 90 while chasing 259.
[Incidentally a line below that 1996 scorecard says:
"Australia's 1st ODI win against India since the 1992 World Cup (India have won 3 in the meantime), Australia's 1st match in India since 1989, and their 1st win against India in India since the 1987 World Cup. "
Aaaah - those were the days.]
India have managed to neuter a 0-1 deficit and win the SL series 2-1. The triumph is significant, though not as big as it would have been if the Sri Lankan tour party were to include Murali and Vaas. Things are looking up for Dravid's boys at just the right time as the only two batsmen with question marks in their form books till yesterday, Sehwag and Yuvraj, have now got extremely important runs under their belt.
The one major remaining concern is Irfan Pathan. Dravid will now have to pick teams for the less critical group league matches (as if there ever were any) judiciously with an eye to ease Pathan into a workable form. Rush hour is about to start......
There's another bit for Dravid to worry about: the only regular Indian spinner to back up the early good work of Indian pacers and do some middle-over damage in recent matches has missed his flight to the Caribbean. [I say 'regular spinner' because Sachin has been the best of them in this period!]
Think of the Sri Lankan batting recoveries in each of the three matches, of Harbhajan's lack of penetration even in that dustbowl from the 2nd one-dayer against West Indies, and you are inclined to bet on India missing the services of Ramesh Powar in the Caribbean.