Prince of Indian cricket Yuvraj Singh bids farewell
Champion on the field, and a warrior off it. Yuvraj Singh may have termed his roller-coaster career—one that spanned over 19 years—as ‘on and off’, but rarely has cricket witnessed a player as dynamic and tenacious yet vulnerable as the three-time World Cup winner.
His double ‘Player of the Tournament’ awards (U-19 World Cup 2000 and 2011 World Cup), six sixes in one over off Stuart Broad in India’s victorious World T20 campaign in 2007, stunning efforts in the field, and most importantly, the doggedness to represent India again after winning a battle against cancer are achievements that define Yuvraj. Not just the numbers that he accumulated as one of the best all-rounders of his generation.
“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. Cricket has given me everything and is why I stand here today,” Yuvraj told the media on Monday while announcing his retirement. “It was a love-hate relationship with this game. I can’t explain what it really means to me. This game taught me how to fight, how to fall, dust myself off and get up again and move forward.”
Indeed, Yuvraj did all that. From ruling the cricket field with bat and ball to battling a rare germ cell cancer soon after the high of the 2011 World Cup, the flamboyant middle-order batsman, jokingly dubbed the pie-chucker by Kevin Pietersen, ‘enjoyed unprecedented highs and brutal lows’, as the former England captain said.
“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,” Yuvraj said.
He arrived on the international scene with a dazzling 80-ball 84 in the 2000 ICC Knockout (later Champions Trophy) against the Australian bowling might of Glenn McGrath and Brett Lee. Setting high standards from the start, Yuvraj carried on for the next few years as a handy batsman while rolling his arm over for several crucial breakthroughs.
The NatWest Trophy final in 2002 gave India a glimpse of the next generation of superstars. Tottering at 146/5 chasing 326 against England at Lord’s, Yuvraj (63-ball 69) and Mohammad Kaif (87*) helped script a historic win. A year later, the duo had become the fulcrum of India’s middle order as well as an almost impenetrable shield on the off-side (at cover and point) while the team made it to a World Cup final after 20 years.
While they didn’t reach Promised Land, they realised the dream four years later when India bagged the inaugural World T20—with Yuvraj smashing six sixes in an over off Stuart Broad to ignite the new tournament.
Most sportspersons take a back-seat after obstacles are placed in their way. But Yuvraj had by then built the image of a fighter. He played a vital role in the 2011 World Cup win while battling with cancer. The diagnosis happened only after celebrations were over, but Yuvraj was back to don India colours by 2012.
While that comeback was lauded, he never hit a purple patch. “Winning the 2011 World Cup, being Man of the Series, four MoM awards was all like a dream, which was followed by harsh reality of getting diagnosed with cancer. I was not going to let that disease defeat me,” he said.
The generation of Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma had arrived. Gradually, Yuvraj was no longer the first name on the team sheet.
“All this happened so quickly, and that too when I was at the peak of my career. It was like touching the sky and then falling down at light speed and hitting the ground hard. I can’t possibly explain the support of my family and friends who stood by me,” he said.
“This was probably the most difficult time in my cricket career. Then at the 2014 World T20 final against Sri Lanka, when I laboured to 11 off 21 balls. It was so shattering that I felt my career was all but over, everyone wrote me off too. But I never stopped believing in myself.”
His potential was never in question, which saw him bought by Delhi Daredevils for a whopping ₹16 crore in 2015. But as his form waned, so did demand for his services. He was unsold in the first round of auctions for IPL 2019 though he was later picked by Mumbai Indians for just ₹1 crore. Still, all he played were just four matches.
“I would have been satisfied if I could have played more games (in IPL 2019), would have been happy to leave the sport with that. But you don’t get everything in life. I had decided last year that this IPL would be my last and I’ll give it my best shot. I have retired from BCCI, international cricket. I am looking forward to playing outside India (in T20 leagues),” he added.
Yuvraj revealed he turned down BCCI’s offer of a farewell game. “I was told... If you cannot pass the yo-yo test, then you could play a retirement match. I said I do not want a retirement match and if I do not pass the yo-yo test, I would go home. I passed the yo-yo test and the rest is not my call.”
The curtains have now been drawn. To those who had not witnessed his on-field swagger with collar rolled up, it may be difficult to explain the aura Yuvraj carried. He batted with authority, and owned the fielding spot at point, and his slow left-arm spin was nothing to be trifled with. And ultimately, he walks off on his terms, having made some ‘good’ but also ‘not-so-good’ friends.