Dubai: Even if for a day, Yuvraj Singh decided to steer the limelight away from Virat Kohli & Co — who had scored an emphatic win over defending world champions Australia in their group league game of the ICC World Cup on Sunday night. The Man of the Tournament of India’s 2011 World Cup triumph formally drew the curtains on his international career — triggering a deluge of emotions across the sporting fraternity.
“After 25 years, in and around 22 yards, and after almost 17 years of international cricket on and off, I have decided to move on,” Yuvraj said in a press conference in Mumbai, not really bothering to hide the groundswell of emotions in him. As always during the highs and lows of his life, mother Shabnam Singh was on hand when he made the announcement along with model-wife Hazel Keech.
Now 37, Yuvraj had been patient enough for the remote possibility of a recall to the India team’s white ball set-up — having last played in an ODI against the West Indies in 2017. It’s true that cricket, and sport in general, does not often offer the opportunities of a fairy-tale ending but one felt he still carried an urge to make some meaningful contributions for the Mumbai Indians in the last edition of Indian Premier League — but ended up warming the dugout for the champions for the most part of their one and-a-half-month campaign.
“Trust me I never stopped believing in myself, no matter what the world said. Believe in yourself because if you put your heart & soul in to it you can achieve the impossible,” said Yuvraj, offering an insight into the mental resilience of one of India’s biggest match-winners in the shorter format — who came back within a year of fighting a rare form of germ cell cancer to end with 40 Tests, 304 ODIs and 58 T20Is.
It’s the comeback in the battle of life which has made the gifted — often misunderstood — cricketer carve a niche of his own in the pantheons of Indian cricket — which saw the ‘Fab Four’ of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, V.V.S. Laxman and Sourav Ganguly holding sway over a better part of his career along with a certain Virendra Sehwag. The embarrassment of riches in the India middle order explains why Yuvraj ended up playing only 40 Tests in an international career spanning nearly two decades.
“This game taught me how to fight, how to fall, to dust myself off and get up again and move forward,” Yuvraj read from what looked a scripted speech, although the raw emotion was hard to miss. “I have failed more times than I have succeeded, but I never gave up, and will never give up, till my last breath, and that’s what cricket has taught me. I gave my blood and sweat to the game once I got on to it, especially when it came to representing my country,” he said.
The records that Yuvraj leaves behind tells a different story — the two MVP awards in the two World Cups India have won during his time (World T20 and 2011 World Cup), more than 8,000 ODI runs, the legacy of tireless patrol of the cover point at his peak — are not exactly a testimony of failure by any stretch of imagination.
As Yuvi’s retirement brings the curtains down on the golden generation of Sehwag, Yuvraj, Gautam Gambhir and Zaheer Khan (only Harbhajan Singh is yet to officially retire), Sehwag’s tweet puts it all in perspective: “Players will come and go, but players like @YUVSTRONG12 are very rare to find. Gone through many difficult times but thrashed disease, thrashed bowlers & won hearts. Inspired so many people with his fight & willpower. Wish you the best in life, Yuvi #YuvrajSingh. Best wishes always.”
What’s next in store for Yuvraj? It’s T20 franchise leagues across the world but no more IPL, says the erstwhile pin-up boy of Indian cricket. We will wait and watch.
Yuvraj’s top five moments in T20 cricket
58 off 16 balls vs England (September 19, 2007)
Kingsmead, Durban, became the scene for one of the most astonishing displays of power-hitting. With Yuvraj on strike and fired up after an exchange of words with Andrew Flintoff, a 20-year-old Stuart Broad came in to bowl the 19th over of the Indian innings. Broad may have emerged as one England’s all-time greats in Test cricket since, but what followed in that over is something that has stayed with him throughout his career. Yuvraj sent all six deliveries into the stands and propelled India’s score from 171 to 207 within an over. India won the match by 18 runs.
70 off 30 balls vs Australia (September 22, 2007)
In the very next match, Yuvraj picked up from where he had left off, sending Australia packing as India batted first and scored 188/5. He replaced Gautam Gambhir in the ninth over and constructed an 84-run stand with Robin Uthappa and then put on 30 runs with M.S. Dhoni. His innings comprised of five fours and as many sixes.
77 n.o. off 35 balls vs Australia (October 10, 2013)
This was Yuvraj’s second comeback after recovering from cancer. Aaron Finch’s 52-ball 81 had powered Australia to 201/7 and in reply, India were 80/3 in the ninth over when Yuvraj came in. Virat Kohli was dismissed and India’s score was 100/4 in the 12th over. But after that, Yuvraj and Dhoni counterpunched their way through the rest of the overs. While the latter hit the winning runs in typical fashion, Yuvraj’s 77 — his highest in T20 Internationals — ended up earning him the Man of the Match award.
83 off 38 balls vs Rajasthan Royals (May 11, 2014)
Yuvraj’s best performance in the Indian Premier League came in Royal Challengers Bangalore colours, albeit in a losing cause. RCB were tottering at 40/3 in the ninth over after which Yuvraj took flight. He shared a 132-run stand with AB de Villiers that propelled RCB to 190/5. Later, he took four wickets during the RR chase. However, Steve Smith and James Faulkner’s unbeaten 85-run stand took Rajasthan home. It was the second time that Yuvraj had scored a half century and taken four wickets in the same match in IPL.
60 n.o. off 25 balls vs Sri Lanka (December 12, 2009)
Yuvraj had taken three wickets as India bowled first but Sri Lanka set a target of 207 for India to chase. India started their chase well, with the first two wickets contributing 108 runs before Dhoni and Yuvraj took over. Tillakaratne Dilshan gave him a lifeline when Yuvraj was on 40 in what was a poor fielding performance from both sides. Yuvraj’s innings included three fours and five sixes and India ended up chasing down the target with five balls to spare.