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From cricket to cancer and back - The Yuvraj Singh folklore

Swati Garg
ANALYST
Modified 08 Sep 2014, 13:16 IST
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Yuvraj Singh

“Play the tournament for someone you love or respect or for someone who is special and has played a huge role in your life. Play it for someone you think you owe something to. Make the World Cup part of the debt you have to fulfill.”

These were Sachin Tendulkar’s words to Yuvraj Singh before the start of the Cricket World Cup 2011. With the next edition is around the corner, the Indian team has many things to be worried, but what it needs the most is a person to recreate the magic created by Yuvraj Singh in the last World Cup. Vomiting blood, chronic coughing, observed while even on the field, coupled with breathing problems: this man overcame them all and fought for the game’s biggest trophy as if his life depended on it.  

No future for Yuvraj in cricket – Navjot Singh Sidhu

When he was a kid, he loved roller skating. He would play in various tournaments and always emerge victorious, but his father, former Indian cricketer Yograj Singh, didn’t think skating was a lucrative career option in India and decided to make his son a cricketer, instead. He took Yuvraj to former Indian opener Navjot Singh Sidhu, who after seeing him play, told him that his son wasn’t not made for cricket and showed no promise. Infuriated at the response, Yograj decided to take things in his own hand. What followed has the potential to be written as a folklore. From getting freezing water thrown on his head in ice cold Chandigarh weather so that he would wake up for his training to getting a car as a gift on scoring 300+ in a Ranji match, Yuvraj Singh had seen it all.

His father could be the most uncompromising coach in the world to the most loving parent a child could ask for. It was through his son that the player of only 6 ODIs and a single Test match wanted to live his Indian cricket dream. To say that Yuvraj was able to make his father proud would be an understatement. He has been the hero of the NatWest 2002 finals, the World Cup Twenty20 2007 and countless other Indian team victories, but the most significant moment of his life has to be the Cricket World Cup 2011.

“When it matters, you will matter the most” – Sachin Tendulkar to Yuvraj

He wasn’t keeping well in the last one year before the World Cup. A string of injuries and bouts of dengue in 2010 made sure his place in the WC 2011 squad wasn’t confirmed by any means. He made it to the team, but Sachin Tendulkar noticed that he wasn’t himself and told him that “When it matters, you will matter the most”. His idol believed in him and couldn’t be let down. This was Tendulkar’s 6th and last WC; the team owed him a World Cup victory, and Yuvraj Singh took it upon himself to make sure Tendulkar’s dream was fulfilled.

Before the group match against West Indies, he had started vomiting blood and throwing up his food. On the match day, he was feeling dizzy and was even asked by umpire Simon Taufel if he wanted to leave the ground; he refused to, though. He said, “You can take me to the hospital if I fall or collapse, until then, I am staying.” His contribution was 113 in the grand total of 268! Add to this, the two crucial wickets and we have a Man-of-the-Match performance. To even think that match had to be stopped a few times because the same guy was throwing up on the field explains it better.

If all these weren’t enough to prove how badly he wanted to win the World Cup, what he said on the night before the D-day would. He was having trouble sleeping that night, and, when the team physio Nitin Patel came to his room to give him sleeping pills, Yuvraj told him: “He can take whatever he wants, take away my life, giving me pain . . . God, just give us the World Cup.”

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362 runs – including 1 century and 4 fifties – and 15 wickets made him the Player-of-the-Tournament. From being told he showed no promise to bringing the biggest glory to his country, life had come full circle for the Punjab all-rounder.

YouWeCan – Face of cancer survivors

After 2-3 months, he was diagnosed with lung cancer, due to which he had to undergo chemotherapy sessions in the United States of America. But his indomitable fighting spirit made sure he was back to international cricket in less than a year. He blasted 72 against Pakistan in December, and the world knew that the Yuvraj Singh who hit 6 sixes off Stuart Broad was back.

Even though he had cemented his place in the shortest format, he didn’t give up on the ODIs. He went for rigorous training in France along with Zaheer Khan and tried to take back his place in the playing XI. Things, though, didn’t exactly go as planned, and he has been dropped from the side after a string of dismal performances. But if his performances during the latter stages of the Indian Premier League 7 and in the MCC v ROW match at Lord’s are anything to go by, it is evident that you can never give up on players like him.

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These days when he is not playing or practicing cricket, he holds charity events for his foundation ‘YouWeCan’. It is an organization that helps people less fortunate than him fund their cancer treatments. From finding it difficult to believe that he had this illness – in his words, “This illness, it was hard to believe that a person like me can go through this. First of all, I am an athlete, I run six hours a day and I am playing from morning to evening. How can I have any illness?" – to becoming the face of cancer survivors in India, he has had a remarkable turnaround.

His story is not ordinary. Lesser mortals would have given up on the game after being diagnosed with the disease. But he refused to be bogged down. This is the story of life from cricket to cancer and back and will continue to inspire anyone who finds oneself in such situations in years to come.  

Published 05 Sep 2014, 18:56 IST
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