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Champions Trophy Flashback: Emergence of Yuvraj Singh & Zaheer Khan

Modified 20 Dec 2019, 10:54 IST

Two very different but immensely talented cricketers made their debut for the Indian team in 2000

The year 2000 was a turbulent year for Indian cricket as names of some of its biggest stars had come up in the match-fixing scandal. It was a period when every action by cricketers was looked upon with suspicion. It won’t be wrong to say that cricket as a game was fighting for survival world over. 

It was also the year of the second edition of the ICC KnockOut Trophy which was being played in Kenya and Sourav Ganguly was leading a young Indian outfit for this important tournament. And amidst this turbulence, two very different but immensely talented cricketers made their debut for the Indian team. 

One of them was the stylish left-hand batsman Yuvraj Singh who had already made a name for himself in the Under-19 World Cup. The other was a left-arm fast bowler by the name Zaheer Khan. Together, the two not only made an impact on the tournament, but also brought the right dose of freshness that the Indian fans were desperately looking for.

Addition of a new term to Indian cricket - “Left Arm Fast”

Now Indians had a bowler who could bounce out the opposition

Zaheer impressed in his first match against Kenya, returning with figures of 3-48. But more than the numbers, the heartening aspect was the manner in which these wickets were taken. Two of these wickets were the results of perfect quick yorkers. 

At the fall of the second wicket to a yorker, commentator Geoffrey Boycott remarked; “And again, he has beaten him for pace”. Now words like quick & pace are music to the ears of the Indian fans. For, we have been a nation which has failed to produce genuine fast bowlers. So, when we see one of our bowlers bowling quick our joy knows no bounds.

And here was a young man who was bringing a new term to Indian cricket’s vocabulary - ‘Left Arm Fast’. He continued to wield magic in the next match against Australia and got the crucial wicket of the Australian captain Steve Waugh with a quick delivery. 

Yuvraj brought energy to the Indian fielding outfit

NOTTINGHAM, ENGLAND - JUNE 06:   Yuvraj Singh of India  hits a six during the coin toss during the ICC World Twenty20 match between India and Bangladesh at Trent Bridge on June 6, 2009 in Nottingham, England.  (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)
Yuvraj Singh playing one of his stylish shots

On the other hand, Yuvraj was also bringing life to the area of fielding; an aspect of cricket which the Indians traditionally had not been good at. While India have produced few good fielders in the past like Eknath Solkar and Robin Singh to name a few, but in general the standard of Indian fielding left much to be desired. 

Hence, Yuvraj’s diving catch to dismiss Ian Harvey or the direct hit to run out Michael Bevan were viewed with a degree of awe by the Indian fans. Till now we had only seen the likes of Jonty Rhodes fly like a bird to take catches, but to have one of our own players emulating the same was sheer delight. 

Also Read: 8 Indian Players who played Under-19 World Cup & later made their international debut the same year

A much needed all-rounder

With the bat; he tore apart an Australian bowling lineup comprising of Glen McGrath, Brett Lee & Jason Gillespie. He scored 84 runs off 80 balls with the help of 12 boundaries and was primarily responsible for taking the Indian score to 265 runs. His batting had a degree of flair attached to it.

He continued his good form in the semi-finals against South Africa, scoring a quick fire 41 runs. Along with good performances with the bat and exploits in the field, he was also proving to be an effective bowler. And for once, it looked as though India had found an all-rounder. 

Played a crucial role in the 2011 World Cup victory

While Zaheer hung up his boots in 2015, Yuvraj is still representing the national team

Over the next decade, both Yuvraj & Zaheer became key members of the Indian one-day side. If Yuvraj was flicking his way to boundaries and sixes, Zaheer was busy bouncing out the opposition batsmen. Their performances contributed to some of the famous Indian victories, with the 2011 World Cup victory being the best among the lot.

While Zaheer hung up his boots in 2015, Yuvraj is still representing the national team. In fact, within a week; he will be back in Indian colours in a tournament which had been his launching pad 17 years back. The Indian fans will hope that he can once again enthral them with his stylish batting and energetic fielding. 

Coming back to the 2000 ICC Knock Out tournament, it deserves immense significance in Indian cricket. Although, India lost the finals of the 2000 ICC Knock Out tournament to New Zealand due to a spirited knock by Chris Cairns; they had discovered two gems who went on to successfully serve the nation for the next decade. 

And as Woorkheri Raman had said in his article back in 2000; “Though the Indians lost in the final, they played a refreshing brand of cricket and two very talented players, Zaheer Khan and Yuvraj Singh have emerged which is definitely good for the nation.”

Published 27 May 2017, 21:27 IST
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