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Yuvraj Singh: The Comeback King

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Yuvraj_Singh_India_Cricket_YuviYuvraj Singh- the name itself defines modern day cricket. When all is well with Yuvraj Singh, he hits the ball as clean and long as it has ever been hit. When all is not well, he looks so awkward that you forget he can hit the ball at all.

All has been well with Yuvraj more often in limited-overs cricket, where he can be effortless and brutal at the same time, than in Tests, though his form and consistency has been on the decline since his comeback following a recovery from a rare form of cancer in 2012. When he started off, though, his athleticism on the field and his canny left-arm spin made him a key one-day player as Indian cricket went through a transformation at the turn of the century.

 

Yuvraj's father, Yograj, who played one Test for India, was quite strict with Yuvi when it came to cricket. His father was apparently so obsessed with cricket that he took a skating gold medal off his young son's neck and threw it out of the car and said, “From now on, you are going to play cricket.” And from then on he has played cricket.

The major shift came when he was just 15. He carried kitbags in crowded local trains, living away from his parents and a luxurious life in Punjab. At 18 he was shredding a strong Australian attack, in only his second ODI, in the Champions Trophy in 2000.

Soon Yuvraj became India's middle-order mainstay, forming fruitful partnerships first with Rahul Dravid and then with MS Dhoni. Both batsmen, superb ODI operators in their own right, credited their success to Yuvraj's ability to score at will. Proof of Yuvraj's importance is that when he was dropped from the ODI side in 2010, it was the first such occurrence since he cemented his place in the Indian team.

His ODI career is full of brilliant moments, with the biggest impact being his contribution to India's World Cup triumph in 2011. The left-handed batsman scored 362 runs and took 15 wickets in the tournament, and won four Man-of-the-Match awards as well as the Player of the Tournament. That put to shade even his awesome achievement in the World T20 triumph in 2007, where he famously hit a Stuart Broad over for six sixes.

The World Cup win in 2011 was the biggest moment of his cricket career, but soon after that came the biggest challenge of his life, when he was diagnosed with cancer which required a two-and-a-half month treatment in the USA. He returned home after completing his chemotherapy in April 2012, fairly confident that he could resume his duties on the cricket field reasonably quickly and in the same year in August he was named in India's squad for the World T20 in Sri Lanka.

In January 2013, poor form and fitness led to his ouster from the team. But a visibly slimmer and fitter Yuvraj emerged from a training camp in France in October and hit an unbeaten 35-ball 77 in a T20I against Australia on his comeback. But lack of consistency meant he was out of the ODI squad after the tour of South Africa in December 2013.

 

Even though his form dipped, Yuvraj continued to be a hot pick at the IPL auctions, picking up contracts worth over a million dollars, first in 2014 where he was sold for whopping 14 crores to RCB, then in 2015 he was picked for Rs 16 crore by the Delhi Daredevils and in 2016 he went for Rs 7 crore to Sunrisers Hyderabad. The hype surrounding him didn't transcend onto the cricket field, however, and the low point in his career was a shocking 21-ball 11 in the final of the 2014 World T20 which resulted in India losing momentum and eventually the title to Sri Lanka, after which he was dropped yet again.

In January 2016, he made yet another international return, in Australia, for the T20 stretch leading into the World T20, where a twisted ankle put curtains to his tournament. He hadn't had a great time at the World T20, his 52 runs coming at an average of 13.00 and a strike rate of exactly 100. At 34, his international future seemed in doubt.

But as always, Yuvraj had a prolific domestic Ranji season 2016-17, where he scored 672 runs at an average of 82 and made a comeback to the Indian ODI side for the first time since December 2013, for the home series against England. The England series went pretty well for Yuvi which helped him to retain his spot in the team for the Champions Trophy.

 

When asked about his batting, Yuvi said, “The comeback into the Indian team has really helped me. I am more free in my mind and I am not worrying anymore about making comebacks. I am just going to play according to the situation.”  

Some interesting facts about Yuvraj Singh: he has tasted success in every form of cricket- he won the inaugural World T20 in 2007, the ICC World Cup in 2011, the ICC champions Trophy in 2002 where India was joint winner with Sri Lanka and also the IPL in 2016 with Sunrisers Hyderabad. He is the only player in the current squad who will play his 6th Champions Trophy.

We all have memories locked in our hearts that Yuvi gave us in these years. For example, the partnership with Mohammed Kaif at the Mecca of cricket, which made Sourav Ganguly remove his shirt in the pavilion balcony, is still fresh in our hearts and minds.

It will be a delight for many cricket fans if Yuvraj makes a mark in this edition of Champions Trophy as this will likely be his last.

 

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Yatin Singh is a third year student of Delhi College of Arts and Commerce, studying B.A (H) Journal...

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