March 24, 2011, as India trumped the might of Australia in an epic World Cup quarterfinal, it had become evident that since the summer of ’99, cricket was going to see new world champions holding aloft the coveted trophy. The crowd at the Sardar Patel Stadium, Ahmedabad, had gone into a frenzy seeing their home lads marching forward. And among those lads was a lad, down on his knees on the pitch, arms out-stretched, head looking up to the sky and the throat giving out a loud roar of jubilation. A jubilation reminiscent of a warrior having just assassinated his nemesis of old. Yuvraj Singh had just booked India’s place in the World Cup semi-final and he was the man almost single-handedly driving the team’s fortunes forward.
Cut back to 2010, and the whole situation was the exact opposite. Yuvraj Singh, the man that he was, had become a thorn in the public eye. Lack of form, lack of fitness, injury worries, all had left no stone unturned in sending Yuvraj into an eternal oblivion. As if losing his place in the Test team wasn’t bad enough, he also started losing his place in the heart of his fans. And he just about hung on to his place in the ODI team. Dark clouds of uncertainty, dusty storms of doubts had all begun to take over the pleasant weather of his life. Yuvraj went into the World Cup, having been written off by experts and having lost favor among the fans. But then, came the turn-around – a solid performance against England and his World Cup campaign was set rolling. Though the match against England had ended in a tie, from there on, there was no looking back for the man and match after match his stature with his performances just kept growing. “I have had this dream for the last year, of beating Australia in a World Cup game”, was what he had said after his Man of the Match award winning performance against the then World Champions, Australia.
But then, again came the turbulence. Poor performances in England and against the West Indies back home in Test matches, fitness issues once again began to raise the public eyebrow and eventually led to his axing from both the Test and ODI teams to Australia. Though his fitness issues were a concern, the big bad news was yet to come.
In February 2012, Yuvraj Singh was diagnosed with “mediastal seminoma”, a rare germ-cell tumor in between his lungs; a news that shocked the cricketing fraternity to it’s core and came as a major jolt to Indian cricket fans. The clouds of uncertainty had returned, a whole cricketing career ahead was on the line, but more important than that, his life was on the line. And yet again, stacked up against the odds, stood the lad for whom the dream of beating Australia had come true. Stacked up against the odds, stood a sailor for whom riding the torrid tides had become a habit. But no other storm had been as violent as this one.
True champions are those who raise their game with a challenge; and so did Yuvraj. Two months of intensive chemotherapy treatment and the man has come out trumps. Of course the advancement in modern day cancer treatment played a huge role, but then there is only a particular point up to which medical science can help anyone. Beyond that it’s just the human soul that has to decide whether or not to carry on the fight. In Yuvraj’s case, “NO” was never going to be an option.
Upon his return after the successful chemotherapy treatment, he confessed that the chemotherapy cycles often left him depressed and in tears, but the period of cancer also taught him a lot. “Cancer may be the best thing to have happened to me and maybe I will realize this in the future,” said Yuvraj upon his return, a sign of a man who has used his moment of distress as an opportunity to learn. Years ago, Yuvraj had left cycling legend Lance Armstrong’s book It’s not about the bike, half-finished. Lance Armstrong who himself fought a hard battle against cancer and overcame all odds, has been a constant source of inspiration for Yuvraj. “Maybe I had to come back to it this way and finish the book,” he said. Yuvraj realises that this phase of cancer has taught him to appreciate and cherish a lot of other things in life. “For ten years, I got into the pressure getting up every day thinking that I wanted to prove them wrong. But now that is gone, it doesn’t matter and I am content. I have my friends around; I have my family. Definitely, I want to play cricket but I am sure I will play it with less stress on my mind … Playing cricket after this, looks a lot easier.” Again showing the fact that he has learnt a lot of positive lessons during this painful phase. Yuvraj Singh had gone in to fight the biggest and the most important battle of his life and like always, this time, he again had come out as an outright winner.
To think that Yuvraj’s problems had started right from the World Cup itself, where he often found himself uncomfortable in breathing in his left side, had bouts of nausea and had coughed blood on a few occasions, yet still held on to play a stellar role in India’s World Cup triumph says a lot about the man’s determination and willingness to fight on no matter what came his way.
Time and again in his life, Yuvraj has found himself in situations where the wind has been completely against him, where he has had to walk through storms. And every single time has he not only weathered those storms, but every single time has also emphatically turned the tables in his favor and has come out as a winner.
As it is, he is not just committed to playing the game and not just committed to living his life, he is committed to winning the game and committed to living his life as a winner.
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