Even after all the accolades, including a winner’s medal at the 2011 ICC World Cup, and a battle with cancer, Yuvraj Singh has kept his desire to play burning.
The southpaw knocked down a rare germ cell cancer and after nearly 17 months, made a comeback in late 2012.
He played ten T20 matches for India and got a half century against Pakistan. His decent run in the shortest format of the game earned him a recall to the ODI side. But the excitement on his return to his favourite format soon vanished as his second innings could not flourish.
Yuvraj never looked the same batsman he once used to be, and averaged a lowly 18.53 in the 19 ODIs that followed. Even though the left-hander had a couple of fifties to his name, none could guarantee him a further stay in the side. Poor fitness and gaps in his technique exposed him at the international level.
Many wrote him off and predicted an end to his cricketing career. His experience as a finisher, however, ensured him a place in the T20 side until the 2014 World T20 in Bangladesh. But in the final, his 21-ball 11 earned him brickbats. India lost to Sri Lanka and Yuvraj was named the culprit.
It’s now 2016. Another 20 months have passed since that final. New faces have cropped up in India’s ODI and T20 squads.
But Yuvraj, who knew he was not over yet, has once again fought his way back into the squad.
The 34-year-old went to different places and hired trainers to get back in shape. He then conditioned himself mentally by playing as much domestic cricket as possible. He hammered consecutive centuries last season in the Ranji Trophy for Punjab and followed them up with another big hundred this season.
In this season’s Vijay Hazare tournament, the domestic one-day event, he was Punjab’s best batsmen with 346 runs in six games at an average of just under 70.
The efforts were good enough to earn him the selectors’ nod for the three T20Is in Australia.
With India’s top order more or less decided, Dhoni might tinker with the all-rounder’s spot and Yuvraj, a proven performer at No 5 or 6, could get a look in. Youngsters such as Rishi Dhawan and Gurkeerat Mann have not impressed much and Yuvraj’s recent form on the domestic stage will further strengthen his case.
With the next few months heavily packed with T20 Internationals, and skipper MS Dhoni losing his midas touch as a finisher, an in-form Yuvraj could be of great help to the side’s chances, not to mention his own.
To give himself the best chance of keeping his place in the side, he needs to hit the ground running in Australia.