As Yuvraj Singh heard Rahul Dravid heap praise on him after the six-wicket win over South Africa on Monday, a faint smile played on the young man’s face. He had just been declared the Man of the Match for a decisive innings, India had secured their first ODI series win over South Africa since 1991, and the captain was talking about his worth to the team.
That playful smile suggested that Yuvraj was simply reliving his innings: the initial bravery and then the swift, stunning counterattack. Sachin Tendulkar was named Man of the Series, but it was Yuvraj who finished both wins. With his 61 on Sunday, following his 49 two days before that, he once again proved that he is perhaps the most consistent match-winner India have gained over the past decade.
Sunday’s innings was a demonstration of his force of character. Things looked tight after the loss of early wickets. The South African pacers were steaming in and the ball was wobbling a bit. Runs seemed impossible to get.
Yuvraj and Dravid bided their time, and then launched a ferocious assault. Yuvraj drove powerfully and Dravid pulled and lofted with force as India were on their way.
“He’s up there with the best ODI players in the world without a doubt. Yuvi has been exceptional, he’s been a fantastic finisher for us,” Dravid said. “It’s not an easy job to do under pressure, and he does it really well.”
“He has the power, the skill, and he matches that with temperament and mental strength and brains,” Dravid went on, and Yuvraj grinned. “That’s a deadly combination.
Yuvraj himself, though, was a little muted in his self-appreciation.
“Obviously, after being 0-1 down, it was not easy to come back,” he said. “But the boys really fought hard and we had two really good games.” “It gives a lot of confidence when we win outside India,” he added. “Confidence is really high, the mood is good and we’re looking forward to the England series.”
Yuvraj seems to possess this steely resolve, which has helped him triumph against injuries and a host of other problems. Asked if a brand-new, more reliable Yuvraj would emerge, the man just grinned. “The more you play, the more you learn... I’m there to do my best. And when you do well against a good team, it gives you a lot of self-belief and confidence,” he said. “I hope he can play a huge role for India,” Dravid said. “It’s guys like him who have to take the mantle.”
Yuvraj just smiled a little more.