The Master of Timing – Sandeep Patil Writes on Yuvraj’s Retirement
Sandeep Patil writes about Yuvraj Singh, a cricketer he first met on his first birthday!
Cricket is all about timing. If you time everything perfectly, you become a legend, and in my book, Yuvraj will always remain one of the legends of the cricketing world.
First Glimpse of a Chubby Yuvraj
In the early 80s, we had gone to play the Deodhar trophy at Chandigarh. Yuvraj’s father Yograj, who is my dear friend, had invited the Indian team players to his house to celebrate Yuvraj’s first birthday. That was my first glimpse of a chubby Yuvraj. He was full of energy, smiling away to glory, and very playful.
In the 90s, he was playing for the Times Shield, for the Mafatlal group in Mumbai. It was Makrand Waigankar who decided to take Yuvraj under his wing and convinced his father to allow him to take early lessons in Mumbai culture. Makrand assisted Yuvraj in joining Dilip Vengsarkar’s Elf Academy. And from then on, we started hearing stories about this young talent from Chandigarh named ‘Yuvraj’.
I saw him in Kenya. He was one of the two new young recruits to the Indian team (the other was Zaheer Khan). My word! They made an alarming statement on their arrival at the international stage, in style. In just a year, Yuvraj had taken huge strides, blossoming into a great cricketer.
I’ve seen and played with many greats of world cricket; from the elegance of GR Vishwanath, and VVS Laxman, the technical brilliance of Sunil Gavaskar, the arrogance of Vivian Richards – but Yuvraj! I was totally floored by the way he could hit the ball at will. With great elegance, he massacred both fast and spin, and became a real threat to bowlers around the world. I consider myself lucky to have spent a lot of time discussing cricket and other things with him.
It was my directorship at the NCA that gave me the opportunity to know the real Yuvraj. The cricketing world adored him, and he lived up to their expectations by being a major contributor to the Indian team lifting up two World Cups.
A Blow to the Cricketing World
It was the National Cricket Academy’s (Bangalore) physiotherapists – Ashish Kaushik and Nitin Patel – who noticed that there was something seriously wrong. Yuvraj had massacred Chris Broad, hitting six sixes for the world record. When news of his illness made headlines, he was undergoing rehab at the academy. I remember playing table tennis outside my cabin at the academy with Yuvraj. Ever bubbly and smiling, he looked exhausted. Even in that condition, he thrashed me in the game. It was that evening that his physiotherapists were in consultation with doctors in the USA. It was thanks to Mr Srinivasan, who was then the BCCI president, and Secretary Sanjay Jagdale that the decision was taken to send Yuvraj to the USA for treatment. His family too was taken into confidence.
Souring of Our Relationship
When Yuvraj recovered and returned to India, I was Chief Selector. The entire selection committee was anxious to know more, as along with the rest of India, we were eager to see him back on the field. It was one of the happiest days of my career, when he got selected to play against England in the home series. The pressure of expectations and reputation was immense. Yuvraj looked as elegant as he did before the illness. But something was missing. He tried his best, but the enormous toll his illness had taken, showed.
It is most unfortunate that after he got dropped during my tenure as Chief Selector, my relations with him soured. I guess it was part of the game.
But I will always cherish the great moments, times and discussions I had with this great player. He will always remain one of my dearest, darling cricketers. Long live Yuvi! God bless your family.
(Sandeep Patil is a former India cricketer who was part of the 1983 World Cup-winning squad. He also served as Chief Selector of the Indian cricket team along with being the Director of the NCA.)
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