Exactly a year ago to the day, Yuvraj Singh played the last of his 37 Tests. On November 14, 2011 at Eden Gardens in Kolkata, the left-hand batsman was dismissed lbw for 25 by West Indies' captain Darren Sammy to end a trouble innings in which was beaten, edged the ball several times and even copped body blows. It took his series tally to 66 runs from three innings, each time dismissed to Sammy's medium pace. Three days later, Yuvraj was dropped from the Test squad.
Ten days later, it was revealed that Yuvraj was battling a non-malignant tumor and that he had asked the BCCI not to consider him for selection for the ODIs against West Indies because he was recovering from an "illness that threatened his career". Thus set in motion a period of fear, insecurity and self-doubt. First, Yuvraj targeted the CB Series in Australia; then he was ruled out as he had yet to recover from the tumor. Next, he was ruled out of the IPL. In the first week of February it was announced that Yuvraj had been diagnosed with cancer and that he was undergoing chemotherapy in the USA.
In March, Yuvraj completed his chemotherapy. In April, he returned to a hero’s welcome in India. In June, he began training at the National Cricket Academy in Bangalore. In July, he said he was eying selection in India’s Twenty20 squad for two matches against New Zealand, and later the ICC World Twenty20. Later that month he was named in a preliminary pool of 30 for the tournament in Sri Lanka. On August 10, Yuvraj made it to India’s Twenty20 team for the home series against New Zealand and the World Twenty20, a selection he termed as “like being selected for the first time”.
It has been a remarkable comeback for the 30-year-old allrounder since recovering from cancer, but what will really matter is if he finds sustained success in Test cricket.
His first international appearance since recovering from cancer saw Yuvraj bowl two overs, score 34 off 26 balls and take a catch in what turned out to be a fluent fielding performance.Considering the speculation over his fitness and ability to perform after surviving cancer, it was a job well done. In the World Twenty20 he was unspectacular, scoring 66 runs in four innings and taking eight wickets to finish with a Man-of-the-Match award as India again failed to make the knockouts.
The next focus became getting back into the Test squad. More than the Twenty20s, what the selectors took more confidence from was the Yuvraj's 241-ball 208 against Central Zone, which spanned over five-and-a-half hours, in his first first-class match. Then came the match between India A and an England XI in Mumbai, where he hit four sixes in an 80-ball 59 and took 5 for 94 from 26.5 overs. Duly, Yuvraj was named in India's Test squad.
Today he looks a starter for Ahmedabad, but Yuvraj will have to be consistent to hold down a place. Despite his status as an ODI behemoth, he has never managed to cement a Test spot despite getting many opportunities. From 2003-2011, Yuvraj played 37 Test matches but was dropped on numerous occasions, sometimes during a series, and his Test career has remain chequered. A susceptibility to raw pace and problems against quality spin – he famously struggled against the likes of Brad Hogg in Australia - have shaped the image of a hugely talented batsman at sea in five-day cricket.
But now Yuvraj has the backing of a nation, the confidence of the selectors, and form on his side. India are in an era of change, with spots up for grabs in the middle order. Where earlier he had Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman before him, today Yuvraj has been ushered in to bat at No. 6 in Tests. If he does make a successful comeback to Test cricket, his story will be regarded as one of the most spectacular achievements by a sportsperson.