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A huge bouquet of memories, lekin yeh dil toh maange more

Yuvraj defeated cancer, but could do nothing about the prejudiced minds of some

By Lokendra Pratap Sahi in Calcutta
  • Published 11.06.19, 4:35 AM
  • Updated 11.06.19, 4:35 AM
  • 4 mins read
Yuvraj Singh with wife Hazel and mother Shabnam in Mumbai on Monday. (PTI)

“The game has taught me how to fight... How to fall, how to dust myself off... To get up again and move forward... I have failed more times than I have succeeded, but I never gave up. And will never give up till my last breath... That’s what cricket has taught me.”

Emotionally powered, that statement from 37-year-old Yuvraj Singh, in Mumbai on Monday afternoon, is sure to keep ringing in one’s ears.

Yuvraj has retired from International cricket and from the Board-conducted tournaments, including the IPL, but hopes to feature in the lucrative T20 Leagues which have mushroomed across the globe.

Given that Yuvraj won’t play in the IPL, the Board should have no problem in his playing either in the BPL, CPL or the BBL.

Expect Yuvraj, a match-winner for the major part of his career, to be wooed by agents of franchisees from different corners of the world.

Clearly, there comes a time when either the fire in the belly gradually gets extinguished or circumstances are such that its intensity becomes irrelevant.

No matter what top sportspersons say, that realisation must be rather painful.

Yuvraj hasn’t retired as someone who last played for India two years ago, but as a cricketer who beat (“thrashed” in the words of Virender Sehwag) cancer and made more than one comeback after undergoing treatment in the US in the early part of 2012.

That stays significant.

Yuvraj’s story is actually that of an inspirational, masti-filled figure who has been the face of the ‘Fight Cancer Campaign’. His own Foundation has been working passionately to spread awareness and the need for early detection.

“True hero,” is how Anil Kumble saluted Yuvraj.

If Yuvraj’s career had to be captured on celluloid, there would be two distinct parts: Till the detection of cancer in 2011-2012 and, then, from the 2012-2013 season.

Many highs before the interval, more lows (cricket-wise) than highs in the latter part.

In Mumbai, Yuvraj declared it was “a perfect day to move on.” He would have liked to exit on a high, in the India Blue, but the men who matter had already decided to look beyond him.

This seems to be the time of the Rishabh Pants and the Shubman Gills.

Strange isn’t it that Yuvraj’s last appearance for India, in an ODI in the West Indies, was only months after a career-best 150 (against England) and weeks after a 32-ball 53 versus Pakistan in a league match of the 2017 Champions Trophy.

Yuvraj wasn’t considered even after clearing the Yo-Yo test on the second attempt. Suresh Raina also had to undergo the test twice.

The Virat Kohli-Ravi Shastri regime is giving immense weightage to the Yo-Yo test and Yuvraj does have his views. However, his thoughts will be known later, not while the World Cup is on.

“I don’t want any controversy around the players now. I want them to be in the best space,” Yuvraj maintained.

A year-and-a-half ago, Yuvraj told The Telegraph: “It has always been difficult for me... A comeback may be difficult, but not impossible. It’s all a matter of self-belief... Look at Roger Federer... I’m not Federer, but I’ve just made a point.”

Back in 2007, Yuvraj’s 6x6 off Stuart Broad took the still-very-young T20 format to another level and his innings became a major selling point for the IPL, which took off a year later.

Yet, at the auction for this year’s IPL, Yuvraj was bought by the Mumbai Indians at the end after going unsold in the rounds of high bidding.

Not being picked up by any franchise at all would have been massively humiliating. Still, Yuvraj couldn’t have felt nice at being bought at the base price of Rs 1 crore, with some suggesting idol Sachin Tendulkar had a role to play.

Then, in the IPL, Yuvraj hardly got opportunities as the champions played him in only four of their 16 matches.

No wonder Yuvraj said: “You don’t get everything in life... Wasn’t getting results... Wasn’t also getting opportunities.” He conceded that getting back to domestic cricket had been “a bit of a struggle.”

Couldn’t have been easy for a cricketer who enjoyed star status from the very start of his International career (October 2000).

Largely viewed as a marquee player in ODIs, hardly anybody remembers Yuvraj’s maiden Test hundred, 112 in Lahore on the 2003-2004 tour.

The wicket at The Gadaffi had been anything but easy in the first innings of the match. India, as it turned out, came off a poor second.

That was an era when you had plenty of class in the middle order — Sachin, Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly, VVS Laxman — and, so, opportunities were few and far between for Yuvraj.

Yuvraj ended up almost always being on trial. He made a pertinent point: “I got to play one or two Tests, compared to the guys today, who get to play 10-15 matches... Every time I failed, I got dropped.”

Quite telling. However, Yuvraj would readily accept he ought to have done much better when opportunities did materialise.

Later, when there was an excellent chance to cement a Test berth, cancer struck.

But while Yuvraj defeated that illness, he could do nothing about the prejudiced minds of some.

Post cancer, Yuvraj’s worst period was when Duncan Fletcher was India’s head coach. Another middle-order batsman was elevated to the most-favoured status, making life more difficult for Yuvraj.

Yuvraj required a show of confidence. Instead, he was made to feel as if the dreaded axe was always millimetres away!

Fletcher’s extended innings ended with the 2015 World Cup, but Yuvraj had to wait for a further nine months or so before embarking on the comeback road one more time.

This road didn’t take Yuvraj till the 2019 World Cup, rather the dead end was reached two years earlier.

One journey has ended for Yuvraj, winner of the U-19 World Cup in 2000, the inaugural World T20 seven years later and the Player of the Tournament in the 2011 World Cup. Another has started.

Of course, Yuvraj has given us a huge bouquet of memories, lekin yeh dil toh maange more...