Broad may not have pardoned him, to this day. The Australians may not have recovered from the ill-fated 2011 World Cup loss in the semis. Flintoff may still have qualms about how counterproductive it was of him in taking his shirt off, only for India to take the shirt off the English later, in their backyard. And certainly, India may have wanted to utilize him a lot better than it did.
But no tribute to Yuvraj Singh can be accomplished without stating that there was a batsman who redefined the art of making the big look easy.
Wondering how? When did India last boast of a batsman who could both throw himself at the ball, whether in point, short cover and the outfield, get the cotton all dirty, bowl in a few quick overs, and press the accelerator immediately when needed?
Few cricketers arouse emotions of the kinds that Yuvraj Singh does and few ever may. Yes, in the past few summers, he did appear a bit rusty.
The fluent knocks sort of disappeared. The runs didn’t particularly feature.
And where pure numbers are concerned, then from the onset of 2011-2013, a period of time during which time, where he was at his peak and played 33 ODIs, his returns didn’t reflect that the elegant timer of the ball still had it.
It was as if, someone had taken the accelerator off a sports-car.
Yet, despite spending a quarter of his career away from the 22 yards, in agony, whilst recuperating, Yuvraj Singh managed to epitomize the meaning of the courage.
You remember Dravid when he managed to bat on despite being struck by a bouncer on his jaw-line in a Test in Bangladesh. You cannot ignore Kumble, with his jaw bandaged in the Caribbean, carrying on uncomplainingly only to remove Lara from the crease. And to this day, Sachin raising his bat to the skies, offering his father a tribute upon his stunning century against Kenya turns your eyes wet.
But where will you place a cancer-stricken Yuvraj Singh in the annals of world cricket, who before-treatment and post-recovery continued to persevere with the same audacity with which he plundered 8700 ODI runs, and along with it- 14 centuries and 52 fifties?
No tribute to Yuvraj Singh can be rendered complete without subjecting Stuart Broad, for the millionth time, to the time where the celebrated English bowler became a laughing stock. Because hitting six sixes in as many balls in a Cricket World Cup isn’t a joke. And likewise, no tribute to Yuvraj Singh can be worthy of respect without highlighting that despite being struck with a life-threatening scare, the left-hander aspired to play for the same team for which batting for several years, his career’s emerged as an aspiration for those in hot pursuit.
Yuvraj Singh arrived in the game back in 2000. Back then, Sachin and Lara were still going strong, there was no such thing as T20 cricket, Peter Willey and David Orchard umpired in high-octane contests, and cricket wasn’t about wearing yellow shoes on red jerseys.
Cricket was primarily about upholding the spirit of the game, it was about glory, it was about pride, of the kinds that Yuvraj Singh demonstrated when along with Md. Kaif, he made India sail over England, in 2002.
In a sport decorated by the genius of Tendulkar, Kallis, Ponting, and Lara, batsmen like Yuvraj Singh- fluent stroke-makers on the front-foot and strong exponents off the backfoot- made a rational case for, “Those who are going to come in next!”
In the 2003 World Cup, despite Sachin’s blazing knock, and subsequent dismissal- remember the short-pitched one from Shoaib- it wasn’t over for India because giving company to The Wall was a Yuvraj. Perhaps his 50 off 53 was his best fifty in any world cup.
Today, you no longer feel South Africa are defeated unless you’ve removed David Miller from the crease or bulldozed the likes of Russell and Holder from the wicket in a West Indian chase gone awry.
Back in the day, you had to contend with Yuvraj’s cleverly-disguised left-armers and his hawkish vigilance over the point region. And when that was not enough, the strong ” bull’s eye of a throw” could shackle the stumps at the runner’s end the same way lofty hits down the order could take the game away from an Australia, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan.
Calling him an all-time great of white-ball cricket is easy. But ascertaining what makes him one pays testimony to a cricketer who came, conquered, made headlines, nearly went from being a glowing icon to being obscure, and bowed out on his own terms.
A couple of humid summers ago, when Rahul, Kohli, and Dhawan departed- in that order- in an important Cuttack encounter against England, in walked the Prince of Punjab and out went England’s hopes of rubbing India wrongly. After batting for 37 overs, at a stretch, the then 35-year-old carved arguably his finest ODI ton, as also his greatest limited overs century.
The 150 came in a high-pressure situation and took only 21 overs of hitting to manifest in 18 stunning boundaries and 3 sixes.
Well, truth be told, it’s a shame that Yuvraj wasn’t picked for the #CWC19.
Maybe, it can make for an interesting debate, on another day, that is it fair to have only icons like Sachin that dream farewell while those who’ve served their nation with unswerving commitment, like Dravid, Ganguly, Laxman, and Yuvraj go without waving a final goodbye?
Why was Yuvraj, no less exhilarating as was Lara in his heydays, denied the chance of asking his home crowd- whether in Mohali or Delhi- “Did I entertain?”
But heck, we all know he did. From the onset of 2000 to the period of his most ostentatious hitting, circa 2005-to-2008, when in these four years he struck 2800 of his nearly 8800 runs, scoring 8 of his 14 tons in sublime fashion.
Batsmen, there are many, but warlords there’ll be few. Shouldn’t we be glad that in Yuvraj Singh, we found our greatest left-hander alongside Ganguly and a fighter too?