Dubai: It’s been almost five months since an emotional Yuvraj Singh bid goodbye to any serious form of cricket, but the quintessential brave heart of Indian cricket seems to have come to terms with it rather well.
“Life has been good and stress-free since the retirement. It’s almost after 20 years that you are not waking up to face the rigour and the pressure of performing for the country,” he said during an exclusive chat with Gulf News on the sidelines of launching the Ultimate Kricket Challenge — a fun cricket event — in the company of West Indies great Chris Gayle.
Any conversation with him may often throw up a residual regret that he could have added value to the national team for some more time, but the 37-year-old has lined up his priorities right now — apart from being the driving force behind his YouWeCan Foundation, which works towards creating awareness and treatment of cancer, he loves to keep in touch with the game with overseas franchise leagues.
“It’s been a great journey with the foundation and a learning curve for me. We are now being able to provide treatment for five to six children in a year, who are below the poverty line while we have created programmes for scholarships for children whose parents have lost all their funds in this,” said ‘Yuvi,’ whose story of defeating a rare germ cell cancer soon after guiding India to the 2011 ICC World Cup is a part of sporting folklore now.
The thoughts about the foundation came to Yuvraj’s mind even while his treatment was on in the US and it took shape the very next year when Yuvraj and his mother Shabnam Singh — a pillar of strength in his life — decided to touch people’s lives with such an initiative. “In India, sourcing money for charity is not always easy as a lot of work is already being done in different fields. However, we have tied up with corporates for CSR funds and extended our work in the rural areas. There is still a lot to be done but we are moving in the right direction,” he noted.
The crowd-puller that the big-hitting Yuvraj was during his playing days, it came as no surprise that organisers of the franchise leagues around the world would like to flaunt them on their roster. In August, it was the Toronto Nationals for whom he walked out to bat in the Global T20 League in Canada while he would be sporting the colours of Maratha Arabians as their icon player in the Abu Dhabi T10 League in mid-November. He is again expected back in the UAE in mid-February for the Ultimate Kricket Challenge to take part in the unique concept of cage cricket.
“Playing in such leagues abroad is good fun, you meet the players — like me and Chris are here,” as the camaraderie between two of the biggest entertainers of contemporary cricket was much in evidence. “I am, of course, looking to bowl at KP in the Challenge here,” he said, in reference to the former England batsman’s past digs at him — calling Yuvraj a pie-chucker for his slow left-arm spin. Kevin Pietersen, alongwith Pakistan’s Shahid Afridi are some of the other marquee names who will be here for the February event.
Reflecting on Indian cricket, Yuvraj sounded particularly happy at the appointment of Sourav Ganguly — a captain and mentor to him — as the President of Indian cricket board. When reminded about his recent barb in the Indian media that the much-talked about yo-yo test (“Wish you were there when the yo-yo was in demand”), Yuvraj played it on the frontfoot again about how he was dropped from the team for failing the fitness test — a hurdle which he cleared later.
“Yes, I maintain that if Sourav would have been there, things would have been different. The yo-yo test (a brainchild of the Virat Kohli-Ravi Shastri regime) couldn’t have been an excuse if a player was performing to keep him out of reckoning,” he said in a reference to him not being considered for the national team despite performing well in the 2017 Champions Trophy.
“In Sourav, we have a former cricketer and a very successful captain who understands the needs of the players. I consider him to be a visionary and hope he looks after the state of domestic cricket as well,” Yuvraj said.
Only a few days back, he had lashed out against the BCCI for not having a reserve day at the Vijay Hazare Trophy — which saw Yuvraj’s state Punjab being knocked out in the quarter finals against Tamil Nadu after rains intervened and the Dinesh Karthik-led side went through by virtue of winning more group matches. “It was not fair,” he said. “The Vijay Hazare Trophy is the Ranji Trophy for ODIs — and the most important tournament after India’s one-dayers. I hope Dadi (Ganguly) can address such issues.”