Yuvraj hits a shot during the T20 match against New Zealand in Chennai on Tuesday. (Reuters)
Sept. 11: Twelve years ago, sitting in Panchkula, Shabnam Singh had been worried that “the big and fast” Glenn McGrath, Brett Lee and Jason Gillespie (all of whom are now through with international cricket) would hurt her “poor son”.
That was on the morning of October 7, 2000, when India took on the then world champions Australia in the ICC KnockOut in Nairobi.
Yuvraj didn’t have to bat on his debut, against Kenya, four days earlier, but the script against Australia had to be different.
It was and it’s Yuvraj who turned scriptwriter, cracking 84 off 80 balls (an excellent strike-rate in the pre-T20 era) and taking his maiden MoM award.
Few have announced their arrival on the big stage more quickly and in more telling fashion.
At the Chepauk this evening, Shabnam was worried, yet again, but for very different reasons. Yuvraj, after all, was making his comeback after such an inspirational fight against cancer.
If the mother was tense, the son had “tears” during the first over of the T20 International against New Zealand, bowled by Zaheer Khan (who, incidentally, also made his India debut in the same match).
Those were tears of joy. And, why not?
For, six months after being forced to take a wheelchair, during the latter stages of chemotherapy in Indianapolis, Yuvraj was back in India colours. Back doing what he knows best.
What’s more, Yuvraj’s teammates were sporting the YouWeCan badges. He’s “absolutely passionate” about YouWeCan, set up by the foundation that bears his name, and wants awareness about cancer to grow.
A third six from his blade and Yuvraj’s return would have been as dramatic as the first time he batted for the country. But even if India lost, the fighter in Yuvraj (34 off 26) made a massive point.
That Mahendra Singh Dhoni chose to field allowed Yuvraj’s nerves to settle down somewhat. Thankfully, he escaped a major injury when he wasn’t able to take a return catch off MoM Brendon McCullum. He did go off for repairs, but not for long.
Later, when he walked in to bat (India two down for 86), Yuvraj was accorded a Tendulkaresque ovation by the Chepauk. It was the fans’ way of hailing his win in a “huge battle”.
“A great day” and “an emotional journey” is how Yuvraj described his comeback, after being out of action for 10 months.
Despite sending senior pros Daniel Vettori and Jacob Oram into the stands once apiece, Yuvraj wasn’t able to finish it off. Still, given the circumstances, he’d more or less played his part and promised to “get better”.
That cannot be great news for India’s opponents in the World T20, beginning in Sri Lanka next week.
Sourav Ganguly, Yuvraj’s first India captain, summed it up nicely. He told The Telegraph: “The message in Yuvraj’s return is that where there’s a will, there’s a way.… If you have it in your mind to fight, you’ll do just that.”
Irrespective of the controversies, Yuvraj sees Lance Armstrong as a “hero”. He’s himself exactly that to millions, but won’t talk about it.