Should an injured Yuvraj Singh have been allowed to continue batting, particularly as his presence at the crease was harming the team’s interest? Who should have taken a call on his retiring from the crease? Was the onus on him or on the captain? These are issues that need to be addressed after an injured Yuvraj’s farcical running between the wickets almost cost India their match against Australia and more importantly a berth in the last four of the ICC World T20 Championship.
The facts of the case are simple: Yuvraj was on 5 in a score of 54 for 3 from 8.2 overs when he hopped on to the back foot to handle a short-pitched delivery. On coming down, he twisted his ankle so badly that he struggled to run between the wickets for the remainder of his innings.
Precious two runs were turned down often as he settled for a mere single. On one occasion, with Virat Kohli pressing for a third run, Yuvraj declined by simply turning his back on him.
Twice the physio had to come on to the pitch and administer first aid but there was no improvement in Yuvraj’s running between the wickets. It remained painfully counterproductive to team India’s cause.
Yuvraj who was on five from two balls at the time of injury was finally dismissed for a personal score of 21 from 18 balls. In his last 16 balls he had made less than a run-a-ball. During his injured phase at the wicket the Indian scoreboard had lumbered along to add 39 runs from 5.4 overs. In comparison, immediately after his dismissal, Kohli and skipper MS Dhoni added a hectic 67 runs in 5.1 overs to take the team home.
The sad fact is, had the injured Yuvraj not got out when he did, and had he continued to bat for another over or two, it is certain that India would have lost the match. The longer he stayed at the wicket the more damage he was doing to India’s chances of winning the crucial match.
Thus would it not have been prudent for him to retire earlier, say in the 11th or 12th over and give the fitter and sharper Dhoni, Hardik Pandya or Ravinra Jadeja a shot at scampering between the wickets with Kohli? Shouldn’t he have retired for the greater glory of the team and keeping its interests in mind?
A few years ago, in a similar situation, he could have utilised the services of a runner. But in 2011 the ICC prohibited a runner for an injured batsman. He could either continue batting or retire and come back later at the fall of a wicket.
However, the game's laws have never been clear on who should take a call on withdrawing the batsman from the crease. To leave it to the batsman would be unfair to him and the team. If he pulls out early he could be accused of chickening out of a tough situation and he’d never live down that stigma. If he continued batting he could be accused of being selfish and unmindful of the team’s interests.
Yuvraj escaped both stigmas by getting out at an opportune time. However, it must be said that if he did not have the reputation of being a fearsome hitter, the Aussies would not have dismissed him. They would have used every trick in the book to just keep him out there in the middle. In this way they could have controlled India’s rate of scoring on a huge outfield where, unlike other grounds, twos and threes were a possibility.
Lest some believe that such sharp practices are not within the spirit of the game, fielding sides already deploy field placements and line of bowling attack to ensure that the more adept batsman is confined to the non-striker’s end. So what prevents them from not dismissing the batsman hampered by injury? His dicey running between the wickets could actually sabotage the opponents’ rate of scoring and thereby work in their favour.
It is for this reason that the batting team skipper must be thrust with the responsibility of withdrawing an injured batsman. But cricket rules state that the batsmen at the crease deputes as captain for his team. Thus the responsibility is thrust right back on him.
However the Indian team will do well to take a hard and cold look at the issue. With so many stalwarts in the dressing room, including coach Ravi Shastri and ex-Test cricketer Sanjay Bangar, they must work out a protocol that will help tackle this contentious issue at the earliest. Surely a billion hopes cannot afford to ride on dodgy legs!