Ashok Menaria not only has a demeanor that resembles Yuvraj Singh, he is a cricketer in the same all-round mold as well, as New Zealand A found out in their three back-to-back defeats, two of which were scripted by Menaria.
The left-hander from Rajasthan first took his maiden five-wicket haul in the second one-dayer to give India a series-winning 2-0 lead and then turned the third match in Vizag on its head with his blistering strokeplay to help the hosts chase down 290 in the final over.
Menaria's 5 for 38 in the second match were his best bowling figures in any format. It restricted the New Zealanders to just 216, with India knocking those runs off with fifties from Unmukt Chand and Mandeep Singh to win by six wickets and pocket the series.
But Menaria didn't let the Kiwis off the hook in the dead rubber on Thursday. First he took 2 for 45 with his left-arm spin, and then came in at a crunch situation to take the match away from the visitors' grip.
Set a stiff target of 291, the Indians got off to a horror start slipping to 79 for 4 by the 20th over, but Menaria had other ideas and was in the zone, whacking the ball almost at will. The complexion of the game changed from the 25th over onward when Menaria rammed into Todd Astle, hitting him for 24 in the over, punctuated by three sixes and a four.
In all, Menaria hit eight sixes in his 50-ball 69, helped by Kedar Jadhav who scored 57 off 61. The two added 128 runs, and though Menaria fell before India crossed the line, Mandeep Singh ensured India kept a clean sheet with his 37*.
Menaria captained the India Under-19 team on the tour of Australia in 2009, where the team won the one-day series 2-1. The selectors appointed him captain for the under-19 World Cup in New Zealand next year, where India's campaign ended in a loss to Pakistan in the quarter-finals. However, it earned Menaria an IPL contract with Royal Challengers Bangalore. He later switched to Rajasthan Royals in IPL 2012.
With age on his side and the Sandeep Patil-led BCCI selectors putting their faith in youngsters instead of the under-performing seniors, Menaria has every reason to strive for consistency, following his heroics against the New Zealanders.