Exuberance, skill and aggression: Remembering Yuvraj Singh
It was a hot and humid evening in Chennai evening when Yuvraj Singh walked inside the dressing room after scoring a splendid century against the West Indies in the final group stage fixture of the 2011 Cricket World Cup.
The left-hander was ready to field questions in the press conference after that match. Yuvraj, wiping off sweat from his forehead, got irritated when somebody mentioned the threat of facing the defending champions Australia in the quarterfinals. “You can't be the world champion without defeating the world champion...bring them on," Yuvi said.
The confidence in his voice was unmistakable, and in a few days' time, Yuvraj was seen hammering the Aussie bowlers all around the park at the Motera in Ahmedabad during the high voltage quarter-final of the 2011 Cricket World Cup.
The man for the big occasion
The entire country celebrated when he hit 6 sixes in a row against England's Stuart Broad. They danced and partied hard when he played a cracker of an innings against Australia in the high voltage semi-final of the 2007 World T20.
Yuvraj was Team India's trump card during the 2011 World Cup. The left-hander scored 362 runs and scalped 15 wickets in the tournament, and was named the Man of the Tournament.
Four years down the line, the BCCI did not include him in the list of 30 probables for the 2015 Cricket World Cup. Yet, on the day of selection, Yuvraj was the talk of the town.
What does Yuvraj bring to the table?
Over the years, Yuvraj's on-field persona has been a major factor contributing to India's success. The all-rounder belongs to a rare breed of cricketers. Forget the batting displays; there's a circle of energy that surrounds Yuvraj on the field.
His electrifying presence is enough to send the opposition packing.
This reminds me of the popular line from the Bollywood film MS Dhoni: The Untold Story wherein Sushant Singh Rajput (playing Dhoni) says: "Pata hai hum log match kahaan haare?" (You know where we lost the match?) after losing the final of the 1999-00 Cooch-Behar Cup. Dhoni was referring to the fielding; he would've given anything to have someone like Yuvraj in the field.
At his peak, Yuvraj's breathtaking fielding displays were at par with those of the legendary Jhonty Rhodes. He, along with Mohammad Kaif, ushered in a new era of brilliant fielding in Indian cricket, and the newfound tradition has continued till today with the likes of Ravindra Jadeja and Ajinkya Rahane.
The Yuvraj brand of cricket revolved around one basic thought - fearlessness. But the credit for fast-tracking Yuvraj into the national side goes to the former Indian skipper Saurav Ganguly.
Yuvraj was one of the many young cricketers brought into the side in order to bolster the team after the infamous match-fixing scandal that rocked Indian cricket in the early 2000s.
The Indian team required some much-needed impetus to come out of the ugly shadows of the scandal. Ganguly, along with his team comprised of young turks, had the responsibility of pulling the spectators back by reinstating the faith that had been lost.
Yuvraj, with his exuberance and elegance, became an ambassador of Ganguly's "new-age India".
Like every other cricketer, the star all-rounder from Punjab has had quite a few ups and downs in his splendid career. Many remember him for the 6 sixes he hit. Others remember him for his splendid all-round performances during India’s emphatic 2011 World Cup campaign.
But above anything and everything else, it is his fearless attitude that won him a lot of fans. With Ganguly and the team struggling to regain the spectators' faith, Yuvraj came along with not a care in the world, and battered bowlers everywhere into submission.
8701 ODI runs in 304 appearances for the national side throw ample light on the extent of the impact Yuvraj had on the game. The hundreds he scored, the sixes he hit, and the catches he took are etched in the memory of almost every Indian cricket fan.
Stats aside, Yuvraj has always been known for the aura he carried along, the optimism he brought into the team, and the controlled aggression he showcased on the field.
Having turned 37 on December 12 this year, the chances of the southpaw’s return to the national side seem pretty bleak. At 37, he is no longer the player he used to be. But with two World Cup wins already under his belt, you can say he has done enough for the side.