It is easy for a book to perpetuate a myth. Or attempt a portrayal of heroism and triumph against the odds when a man has just emerged from a frightening ordeal. More so, if that man is Yuvraj Singh- celebrity cricketer and the very embodiment of machismo, with a dedicated fan following thirsting for every little nugget of his life. While chronicling Yuvraj's battle against cancer, the authors could so easily have spun the story as a cleverly disguised marketing exercise, designed to enhance his 'brand value'. Instead, they chose to tell the truth with all its frailties and un-sexiness and deserve plaudits for doing so.
'The Test of my life' is an honest and poignant account of the vulnerabilities and darkness that consumed India's World Cup hero through his battle with cancer. In less than 200 riveting pages the book invites us into the inner world of a man who experiences the extremities of a roller coaster in the space of weeks- and finds his own method to tackle the challenge.
The greatest triumph of 'The Test of My Life' is its innate honesty. Yuvraj bravely reveals his anxieties as the battle against cancer took over his life. Asking his doctor before chemotherapy begins if he will be 'able to father a child in the future' and if he 'could maybe preserve his sperm' before treatment begins. He bares the terrible loneliness of staring out of his window in Indianapolis with the town buzzing ahead of the Super Bowl. Just days before he was the central figure in a grand sporting moment too- India's World Cup triumph. Now he was a mute witness to another sporting spectacle unfolding- unsure of what lay ahead.
'The Test of My Life' is a grim reminder of how even those who seemingly have it all- adulation, fame and celebrity - are as susceptible, if not more than us everyday people to being betrayed by those they invest faith in. Yuvraj joyfully describes discovering the devotion and affection of new friends, at times virtual strangers who partner him in the fight. And the back-stabbing of those he implicitly trusts- a doctor friend who refuses to concede his treatment wasn't helping and spills confidential information to a voyeuristic media and a trusted journalist who peddles his access to Yuvraj for a day of sensational headlines. Yuvraj chooses the higher road despite the rage he experiences and focuses instead on the lessons learnt.
It isn't just with his battle against cancer that Yuvraj is brutally honest about. His difficult relationship with a father driven by the obsession to make his son into a successful cricketer is a theme the book returns to repeatedly. Yograj is a man of ambition and Yuvraj is his vehicle. So the young boy's love for skating is disdainfully quelled, he is driven relentlessly to train on cold winter mornings and screamed at for failing in games. When Navjot Sidhu dismisses a young Yuvraj as a 'kid with no promise' Yograj orders his boy to 'pack his stuff', muttering 'I'll see how you don't play cricket'.
If his father is a tyrant who shapes his career, his mother Shabnam is Yuvraj's companion, friend and indulging parent. Yuvraj acknowledges her role with genuine warmth through the book. Writing touchingly in one of the opening pages, 'Someone said rightly, God can't be everywhere so he made mothers. I can tell you I saw that'. Shabnam is a young mother to not just Yuvraj but also his little brother Zoravar. When things fall apart in her marriage with Yograj, the boys become her whole life. Shabnam is seen in some heart-warming pictures- cuddling an infant Yuvraj in the garden of their Chandigarh home and hugging him gently as his body shivers after chemotherapy at the Indiana hospital. The Test of her son's life is Shabnam's too- and as you flip the pages her singular dedication to Yuvraj's recovery leaves you moist-eyed. When Yuvraj recovers, he triumphs and so does Shabnam.
'The Test of My Life' is unpretentious. It is the kind of story we like to tell and like to hear. It is a reminder too that while ambition and success drive us in our daily lives, adversity lurks menacingly near. It picks its victims and varies in intensity. But face it we must as Yuvraj did and continues to do so. He writes without a shred of exaggeration: 'I see that I have been given a second chance in life and I know that I intend to spend it running. If I fall, as I will, I look forward to dusting myself off and running again. That I can do'. You sure have Yuvraj, you sure have.
Title: The test of my life by Yuvraj Singh
Co-authors: Sharda Ugra and Nishant Jeet Arora
Publisher: Random House India
Price: Rs. 399