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HindustanTimes Tue,21 Oct 2014

Cricket

For Yuvi, the real test begins now
Kaushik Chatterji, Hindustan Times
Hyderabad, October 13, 2012
First Published: 23:46 IST(13/10/2012)
Last Updated: 01:29 IST(14/10/2012)

It was sepak takraw with a difference. The object remained the same - the ball had to be kept in the air. But instead of a net separating two teams, the North Zone players formed a circle, each fending for himself.

To avoid losing - the penalty resembled a mock firing squad with the winners raining balls instead of bullets - they ran, dived and jumped. The one who initiated the exercise, though, more or less stood his ground throughout.

All eyes were on Yuvraj Singh as the Duleep Trophy semifinal against Central that starts on Sunday will mark his comeback to first-class cricket after recovering from cancer.

Even as he avoided defeat, he took the lead to 'punish' the losers whilst shouting, "Jahapanah, tofah kubul kijiye!" (a line from a popular movie which means 'emperor, accept the present!').

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Clearly, this was a man not just cherishing every moment of his second innings in the game, but eager to convey the message that all was well with him.

Initial comeback

The India comeback was staged last month in Sri Lanka. There were doubts but he had his skipper's blessings.

"I'm not really concerned about his fitness as far as this format is concerned," is what MS Dhoni had said during the recently concluded World Twenty20.

That, though, was a relatively less taxing version with India playing all their matches after sundown.

When it comes to formats that are contested in the gruelling heat of the day and last longer than a T20 game, he is out on his own.

The Test side is something Yuvraj, even in the pink of health, has never really been a constant fixture in.

Thus confidence, despite his extra pounds, had to be exuded. A clear signal needed to be sent out before the match begins in the energy-sapping heat.

The livewire

And he did that. The showboating, while mostly spontaneous, still demonstrated to the sparse gathering how much he enjoyed being back in the thick of things. It also indicated that his mind is ready.

But whether his body is remains to be seen.

Sure, he knocked a few deliveries and turned his arm over, but that session at the nets was preceded by a lengthy one on the massage table and followed up by an even lengthier period in the gym.

"This is my first duration game (after the illness), so I don't know how my body will behave," said Yuvraj, a touch uncertain. "I know my body will get tired, but I need to get through the four days."

Though he passed a fitness test at the NCA prior to the WT20, the comeback hasn't been easy. "The toughest part has to be the fitness routines, especially cardios," said the southpaw. "My lung capacity had really gone for a toss."

Yuvraj is keen to carry his form with the ball in Sri Lanka to the longer format. "We play most Tests with just four bowlers, so I want to contribute as a fifth bowler," said the 30-year-old.


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