Yuvraj Singh, Forever The Comeback King
Making a comeback at 34 isn’t easy. But neither is being Yuvraj Singh.
(This article was first published on 9 April 2017 and has been reposted from The Quint’s archives after Yuvraj Singh announced his retirement from international cricket on 10 June, 2019)
A few days into the tenth season of the Indian Premier League and already we’ve seen a fair share of entertaining, and sometimes match-winning half centuries. None though, more relevant than a certain Yuvraj Singh’s 62 in Hyderabad win over RCB in the season opener.
Captions like ‘Vintage Yuvi’, ‘the Singh is back’ are in circulation again. And so is the cricketer’s typical swagger and lazy elegance. But this isn't the first time Yuvraj Singh has come up with the ‘unexpected’. Go back to 2012 and his comeback to cricket after cancer wasn’t easy at all. People were looking for the old Yuvi and he himself was trying to figure out his place. And as the rule for survival goes, you aren’t allowed a lot of time. A few failures were enough for the critics and media to gave up on him.
Amidst all this negativity and criticism, Yuvraj didn’t give up. He had this constant urge to prove himself one more time. And it was not for others, but for himself. He had this inner push to be the same Yuvraj that he was before cancer came into his life and destroyed everything around it. He wanted to bounce back with some noise. He was tired of hearing, “Yaar cancer ke baad woh baat nahi rehte.”
These talks only fueled Yuvraj and set him in a search for his old self.
It’s easy to give up and bask in the glory of your past, but Yuvraj picked up his body and went back to the basics. From the glamour of international cricket to the gloomy settings of domestic cricket: Yuvraj started from the scratch. Its doesn’t come easy to a professional with 16 long star-studded years. For a star in his own right, to go back and start like youngster and enjoy the ride.
He was travelling to Lahli, Haryana Cricket association’s ground, right in the middle of farms in Rohtak. He was playing in Bilaspur, a small town in Himachal Pradesh on the Chandigarh-Mandi highway. These travels aren’t easy, hotels aren’t great and sometimes closest airports could be a three to five hour drive. He just put his head down and batted and batted long.
Yuvraj led Punjab in the absence of Harbhajan Singh and become a man with many roles, for the team. A mentor cum coach cum captain all in one and it is a part of his career he enjoys the most.
Ask the Punjab boys and they will go gaga on the generosity of Yuvraj Singh. Each hundred in the dressing room is awarded by a Yuvraj Singh bat, and a five wicket spell means Oakley sunglasses from his personal collection
Along with Harbhajan, it was Yuvraj who started ‘English day’ in the Punjab dressing room. Every Sunday it’s compulsory for everyone to converse in English and the use of any other language could lead to a fine. This day is a laugh riot in the Punjab dressing room and folklore related with the English day of Punjab team are most sought after in the domestic circuit.
While helping youngsters, Yuvraj’s own career was also moving in the direction he wanted. That season, he scored 600 plus runs in the Ranji Trophy with a hundred on the most demanding wicket of Lahli and double hundred against Baroda.
All these efforts were finally rewarded and Yuvraj got his comeback call for the One day and T20 International series against England this year. He entered the dressing room knowing the harsh reality of the selection. Comebacks at 34 are harder than debuts. Chances given to a veteran would be much lesser than a youngster. Selectors by the nature of their job will always like to invest in the future. Yuvi didn’t have time to find his feet and settle. He had to be in a plug-and-play mode.
But his strength of character and courage of conviction was much bigger than these drab facts. There was an intent in his stride and belligerence in his batting. He was in such a zone that he himself shared a joke on Facebook stating, “Comeback of Ashish Nehra and Yuvraj Singh proves that Indian cricket is still accepting notes of 500 and 1,000.”
He got the backing from the team management and his captain Virat Kohli. In the second innings of his comeback at Cuttack, he played one of the most astounding innings of his life. Two legends of the shorter format of the game in Indian cricket, Yuvraj and Dhoni, created an encore from the 2000s when they were famous for winning matches for the country.
He hasn’t looked back since and just like old wine, looks better with each passing day. This is a second gush of wind in the career of Yuvraj Singh and this comeback brings much needed solidity and experience in the Indian batting order.
But more than that, each run he scores and every shot he hits makes cancer patients across the World believe that life can be normal after the illness. As normal as Yuvraj hitting those nonchalant sixes. Cancer survivors couldn’t have asked for a better brand ambassador.
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