Yuvraj Singh: A perennial superstar
It has been twelve years since India played its first shortest format of the game at Johannesburg. In all these years, the game has transformed and the heroes of yesteryears are now in their closet. Very few of that era are still playing international cricket.
With India winning the inaugural edition of the T20 World Cup, the format became an instant success in the subcontinent and heroes of the winning team became legends. And if you are a fan of Indian cricket, the fond memories of Yuvraj’s antics against a young Stuart Broad or a chiselled Aussie bowling attack will be cherished more than anything else.
A flamboyant, boisterous, colourful North Indian character which Yuvraj Singh brought into the game, added charm to it. While he was often considered to be ideal for white ball cricket, Yuvraj started off his Test career on a positive note scoring a hundred in his third match at Lahore.
He was a potential Test cricketer but a career record of 40 Test matches and an unhealthy batting average of 33.92 does not vouch for him. His Test career didn’t last long and he last played against a visiting England side at home in 2012.
The hero of India’s two World Cup glories has been through a roller coaster ride and life has never been the same for him post World Cup 2011. His eventful story of grit, guts and determination have taken us aback and inspired us to an extent that we value the individual more than his game.
When the poster boy of Indian cricket was going through a testing phase, the fans gave him encouragement and never questioned his intent. In the 2014 T20 World Cup Final at Dhaka, Yuvraj struggled to score freely and managed just 11 runs consuming 21 deliveries. His strike rate of 52 slowed down India's inning during the final few overs and all India could manage was 130 and eventually went on to lose the match.
Instead of Yuvraj, if it was some other cricketer who had underperformed, the media would have certainly brought mayhem and with burning effigies in different corners of the country, it would have been all the more tense.
Yuvraj’s stardom was still his selling proposition during this rough patch. In the first round of the 2014 IPL auctions, he commanded the highest price of Rs 14 crores. That came as a surprise to many as Yuvraj was out of the Indian team for four months. But Royal Challengers Bangalore bestowed their faith in him.
As IPL 2014 progressed, Yuvraj found himself out of place. An outstanding performance against Rajasthan Royals in which he scored 83 (38 balls) and picked 4 wickets for 35, made us believe this man has still got a lot to offer. However, he could not do justice to his price tag and had a pretty average season.
RCB decided to release Yuvraj for IPL 2015 season. This time, Delhi Capitals (erstwhile Delhi Daredevils) picked him for Rs 16 crores. However, he failed to impress in the 2015 season too. DD were soon found ruing their decision.
Yuvraj got to play a T20I against Australia at Sydney in 2016, two years after the debacle in Dhaka final. In the final game of a three-match T20I series, India were chasing a total of 198 and with 19 needed to win in the last over, Yuvraj must have been tormented by the ghosts of his past. The unforgettable final of 2014 could only have been redeemed by a match-winning knock. If destiny went against him, it could have also been his last international appearance.
But this man deserved a better script. Using his judgement and experience, Yuvraj turned the match in India's favour by hitting the first two balls for a four and a six respectively. The swashbuckling finisher first flicked the first ball over leg side for a four and the next ball went over deep mid-wicket for a six. India won the match and the legend delivered when needed.
In the same year, Yuvraj went on to play Asia Cup in Dhaka and while chasing a low scoring total of 84 against Pakistan, he got criticized immensely for his knock of 14 (32 balls). Although his poor form continued, he was selected in the squad for T20 World Cup 2016 to be held in India. The nation wanted their hero to roar but he failed to deliver.
A few months later, Yuvraj got a call back to the ODI side against a touring England team. He was returning to the ODI side after a 4-year hiatus. For the fans, it was worth waiting as the southpaw turned back the clock with his batting.
The southpaw scored his career highest score of 150 (127 balls) and gave an impression that he has still it in him to play the 2019 edition of the World Cup. BCCI was equally convinced and selected him for the ICC Champions Trophy in England.
A solitary fifty against Pakistan in the group stage wasn’t enough for a man of his stature. While he achieved a personal milestone of representing India 300 times in ODIs during this tournament, his consistent underperformance was putting immense pressure on him.
Two weeks after losing the final, when India visited West Indies, Yuvraj was again under the radar. He had a point to prove. With three low scores in the series, his name soon was missing from the squad for India's next ODI assignment.
Now, as BCCI has rightly decided to blossom fresh talent keeping the changing demands of the game in consideration, a comeback from the legend is beyond imagination. Moreover, fitness requirements have changed strikingly and players are finding it difficult to cope with.
The man who introduced high standards of fielding in the Indian cricket and was once known for his agility is now no more in Team India's scheme of things.
While Yuvraj would be striving hard to make a comeback to the national side with an impressive domestic and IPL season, his selection chances look bleak. His base price of Rs 1 crore does look attractive for any franchise who would prefer buying an experienced local player. Let us hope it does not go against him and turn out to be the last nail to his coffin.