Yuvraj Singh - the man who won India big tournaments
Those who watched Indian cricket during the last two decades know how valuable Yuvraj Singh has been for the Indian cricket team. Statistics aside, he has proved to be a match-winner almost every time he has stepped on to the field in Indian colors. Having represented India in 402 international matches, Yuvraj scored over 11,000 runs with 17 centuries, 148 wickets and 137 catches.
Yuvraj, who announced his retirement yesterday, was instrumental in India winning major tournaments and trophies, including the 2002 ICC Champions Trophy (shared with Sri Lanka), 2007 ICC World T20 and 2011 ICC Cricket World Cup. He revolutionized India's fielding at the point region and was one of the world's best all-rounders during his prime.
Yuvraj, who mostly batted at number six during his initial years, found a permanent place at number four after the end of the 2007 World Cup. In fact, during the period between 2005 and 2011, he won the most man of the match awards (18) and the most man of the series awards (7) in ODIs than anyone else. His run tally and average was also among the highest during this period.
Another important highlight of that period was that while Australia was the dominant team, most other teams had champion bowling attacks. Yuvraj peaked around the same time when bowlers of the likes of Brett Lee, Glenn McGrath, Jason Gillespie, Shoaib Akhtar, Shane Bond, Chaminda Vaas, Muttaiah Muralitharan, Lasith Malinga, Steve Harmison, Jerome Taylor, Shaun Pollock, Makhaya Ntini and Heath Streak peaked.
Yet another big highlight of Yuvraj's career was the timing of his performances. While he tried to be consistent throughout, his best performances came in big tournament knockouts and series deciders on cricket's biggest stage. This includes ICC tournaments in T20's and ODI's, and Test matches in tough conditions. He is one of those players who is renowned for performing when the team was in trouble rather than when everything was in the team's favor.
Let us now have a look at the big tournaments where Yuvraj contributed substantially, to make India a dominant force in world cricket.
#1 Writing history in the NatWest Series, 2002
As Yuvraj mentioned during his press conference, India's 2002 NatWest Series victory is indeed one of the highlights of not only his career - but Indian cricket as well. Thanks to this victory (and India's 1983 World Cup win), India remain unbeaten in ODI finals at Lord's, the home of cricket. It was all the more special as it remains a rare victory for India over England in tournament finals.
Yuvraj was sensational throughout the tournament, scoring 254 runs, and picking up five wickets in the final analysis. He played two crucial knocks while chasing - against England at Lord's in India's first game of the tournament, and another one against Sri Lanka at the Oval. And his counter-attack against England in the series final has been written in history.
India were chasing 326 - still the highest score ever chased down in any international final. India were 146 for 5, and Yuvraj scored at a strike rate of over 100 to take India quite close to the target. After his departure, Mohammad Kaif stood till the end and ensured India sealed what continues to be one of the most cherished moments in India's cricketing history.