Yuvraj Singh: A hero who made everyone fall in love with white ball cricket

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Published: June 10, 2019 4:53:09 PM

Yuvraj Singh on Monday announced retirement from international cricket, ending a "rollercoaster" career during which he became the hero of India's 2011 World Cup triumph and fought a gritty battle with cancer.

Yuvraj SinghIndia?s Yuvraj Singh celebrates after scoring a century in Cuttack. (Reuters File)

Yuvraj Singh will forever remain an enigma in Indian cricket — one of the country’s greatest white ball players who could never really crack the Test code.

The man from Chandigarh will be remembered for giving India two world titles, one while coughing blood and suffering from a rare germ cell cancer.

Yet, as he called time on international cricket, one couldn’t help but think what could have been if he had finished with 100 Tests instead of the 40 that had he played.

His batting in full flow was unadulterated joy, his off the field persona has always been a topic of curiosity and his power to remain relevant in the best and worst of times makes him a fascinating character.

Left-handers are born graceful but if they are powerful, it gives them that extra edge. Yuvraj had that.

If Sourav Ganguly’s grace was like enjoying a long drive in companionable silence, Yuvraj’s brute power was like experiencing a pillion ride on a Hayabusa on the same highway.

Both has its own distinct charm which is difficult to ignore.

Being the son of a pushy father, who wanted to fulfil his own unrealised dreams, Yuvraj initially lived Yograj Singh’s dream.

Coming from Desh Pram Azad’s stable, Yograj, whose career coincided with that of the great Kapil Dev, could never come to terms with his failure as an international cricketer, with just one Test match under his belt.

So failure possibly wasn’t an option for Yuvraj, 37, whose favourite roller skates (he was an age group champion) found a place in the junkyard.

He had to become a cricketer and he did become a bloody good one.

If Kapil Dev’s contribution was massive in 1983, in terms of impact, Yuvraj’s 300 plus runs and 15 wickets was gold standard performance during the 2011 World Cup.

He was a man cut out for the big occasions, whether the Natwest final at Lord’s, the six sixes off Stuart Broad in a must-win World T20 game in Durban or the quarter final half century against Australia at Ahmedabad, he could bring his A game to the fore in testing situations.

In that Indian line-up, barring Virender Sehwag, no one hit the ball harder than Yuvraj.

Had he not hit those six sixes, God knows what exactly would have Lalit Modi marketed and how big a tournament Indian Premier League would have been.

Yet it will remain a mystery as to why he couldn’t deliver in IPL. Teams would empty their coffers to buy him only to be left high and dry.

Also something would drastically change when he would wear the white flannels.

Self belief would be replaced by self doubts, the footwork not as assured as it is in coloured clothing.

He had a problem on slow decks against slow bowlers. He could never really get going against Muttiah Muralitharan.

The technical problems stayed but he was able to build his game around that and the 300-plus ODIs bear testimony to his ability.

It was a pity that Yuvraj couldn’t become the Test player he should have been. A part of it was that he was never consistent and to be fair, he was fighting for a middle order slot with Ganguly in his early days.

He remained confused as to where he belonged. By the time he could have got settled in the side, he was fighting the biggest battle. The battle of life, cancer.

“It was like touching the sky and then falling down at light speed and hitting the ground hard. All this happened so quickly,” said Yuvraj.

His story post 2011 was a triumph of life rather than achievements on the cricket field.

Ill health took its toll and he was never the same player again. In the 2014 World T20 final on a slow Mirpur track, his 11 off 21 balls was the biggest reason for India’s defeat against Sri Lanka.

He did make those sporadic comebacks but his fitness standards had dropped and the 2017 Champions Trophy was where his epitaph was written.

Still, Yuvraj was, is and will remain one of India’s greatest ODI cricketers. His name would always be taken in the same breath as Sachin Tendulkar, Kapil Dev and Virat Kohli. No one can take that away from him.

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