Yuvraj Singh, a gutsy cricketer
Making his debut in October 2000, standing at cover-point Yuvraj Singh served notice to batsmen. From then on fielding in the Indian team would take a quantum jump from leisurely accompanying the ball to the fence - as was generally the practice - to an attitude that it the ball had to be stopped come what may. While Yuvraj was patrolling the point region no batsman dared steal a single or try an aerial route in that direction. In essence, fielding had arrived in India.
Rock-hard fielding was one of the building blocks that formed the foundation on which India raised its hopes of winning the World Cup. Yuvraj, Suresh Raina and Virat Kohli wove such a stifling stranglehold on Sri Lanka in the 2011 World Cup final that even a seasoned pro like Mahela Jayawardene found it difficult to break the wall formed by the trio. In the first 10 overs, even with fielding restrictions on, Sri Lanka couldn't score more than three runs an over.
Yuvraj burst into the scene as a mighty hitter of a cricket ball. But he was a nervous starter, and opposition teams realized that getting the left-hander out early was imperative, or else he would turn the match on its head and finish it off with overs to spare. And as England learned during the inaugural ICC World Twenty20 in 2007, needling Yuvraj can have devastating repercussions.
Andrew Flintoff tried to upset Yuvraj's concentration in the middle by having a go, verbally. The result was that something snapped inside Yuvraj and Stuart Broad paid the price in the next over, conceding six consecutive sixes. Thick and fast, the ball flew off Yuvraj's bat and sent the crowd into raptures. Those were six of the cleanest hits to fly to all parts of a cricket ground. With that, both Yuvraj and Broad went into the record books for the same event in a short span of six balls. It is a record that still stays.
In between Yuvraj started sharpening his left-arm spin, and MS Dhoni started to rely increasingly on it. In his preparation for the 2011 World Cup, Yuvraj shed excess weight and came back lean, mean and hungry-looking. He had sharpened his bowling skills under his coach as selector, the former India spinner Narendra Hirwani. From being called a 'pie chucker' by Kevin Pietersen, Yuvraj blossomed into a wicket-taking option for Dhoni during the World Cup. Match after match, Yuvraj was among wickets to save the Indian team. Then he would come out to bat and cut lose, thumping the bowlers and upping the run rate like an overheated taxi meter.
Yuvraj had a superb World Cup, scoring 362 runs at an average of 113.6 and taking 15 wickets to feature among the top 10 bowlers in the tournament. He also picked up four Man of the Match awards en route to being named Player of the Tournament. More than anybody in the Indian team it was Yuvraj's contribution that made the difference in crucial stages of the tournament.
And then, at the peak of his career, tragedy struck. He was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, mediastinal seminoma, between his lungs. Somehow all through his brilliant career, the other side had been Yuvraj's brush with accidents and ill health which kept him out for considerable periods of time. Each time, he shrugged off these calamities with his characteristic grit and staged comebacks. And now, after he has returned from cancer treatment in the USA, Yuvraj has vowed to comeback again. Thomas Carlyle once said, "Adversity is the diamond dust heaven polishes its jewels with." This was never truer than in the case of Yuvraj.
Welcome back, Yuvi. Here's hoping you will be back to your best on the cricket field.
More about E R RamachandranE.R. Ramachandran, a corporate manager-turned-columnist has contributed to Hindustan times and Deccan Herald. He is a regular contributor to the Churumuri blog and writes a weekly column for Mysore Mail, a local Newspaper. Satire being his forte, he combines cricket and other sports with politics, in 'tongue in cheek' articles. He firmly believes that another 22-ball century can never happen again in any format of cricket like the one Don Bradman did in November 1931. And feels it is time for BCCI to do something to improve India's fielding and running between the wickets.
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