Yuvraj Singh Was For a Time The Maharaj of Indian Cricket
Highs and lows
Yuvraj Singh experienced both the highs and lows the game can offer.
On several occasions Yuvraj was the Maharaj of Indian cricket basking in adulation that outshone even Sachin Tendulkar.
Then there were the times when he could do little right.
And of course there was the cancer treatment he went through when just 30 and his fightback and his return to the Indian team has been well documented. Actually few cricketers could have experienced so many ups and downs in life itself as Yuvraj Singh.
Now that he has retired from international cricket how will Yuvraj be remembered? Certainly he takes his place as one of the finest limited overs players the country has seen. A record of 8701 runs in ODIs allied to 111 wickets makes him one of the finest all rounders.
Add to this his electrifying fielding and one can see why his game was tailor made for one day cricket. And when T-20 cricket came along he proved to be a natural symbolized by his famous six sixes in the over bowled by Stuart Broad in the inaugural World T-20 tournament in South Africa.
That feat summed up Yuvraj for he batted in such a commanding manner that he had the bowling by the scruff of its neck. The bowler never looked more helpless when Yuvraj was on song.
He did not want only to get on top of the bowling; he wanted to decimate it with a counter attack that scattered the bowlers and made nonsense of even the most astute captain’s fielding strategies. Over the years the flamboyant left hander with the swagger rightly earned the sobriquets “game changer’’ and “finisher.’’
The high points of Yuvraj’s career are so many that one does not know where to begin and when to end. But mention must be made of his electrifying 84 against world champions Australia in the Champions Trophy in Nairobi in 2000 – the knock that brought him instant stardom, his batting in the NatWest Trophy triumph in England in 2002 and the crowning glory – his stellar role in India’s World Cup triumph in 2011 when he was adjudged man of the tournament.
These are of course only the major achievements in a long and illustrious career which saw more ups than downs. There were several other feats that shaped many memorable Indian triumphs.
What made Yuvraj the complete batsman was the ability to blend his natural aggression with the right dose of caution and rock like defence. Without compromising on his swashbuckling approach Yuvraj added solidity to his batting and that made him a batsman difficult to dislodge.
When the bowler sent down a bad ball Yuvraj blessed with a keen eye and nimble footwork knocked it all over the field. But when a good ball was bowled Yuvraj was quick to discern it and the bat came down in time to play a perfect defensive shot. The only difference was that even this stroke was played so adroitly and with such perfect body balance that it generally resulted in runs.
At his peak Yuvraj invited the highest of praise from the critics. “Shades of Lara’’ said some experts. “Brings back memories of Sobers’’ gushed others. Yuvraj had the same classical high backlift, the full follow through after he made the stroke and hit the ball hard, high and handsomely.
All this makes his rather mediocre Test record hard to fathom. Despite the presence of the Big Four – Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman – he was given several chances for nearly a decade but his final figures – 1900 runs from 40 Tests at an average of just under 34 with only three hundreds hardly does justice to his natural talent.
To that extent Yuvraj will remain a sort of enigma. After all there is really no reason why his Test record should not have been as successful as his limited overs figures, something he himself has regretted.
But here again he had his moments. His three hundreds – all against Pakistan – were rated very high on class, skill and strokeplay but he was perhaps more proud of his unbeaten 85 against England at Chennai in 2008 during which he shared an unbroken 163-run partnership with Tendulkar while steering India to a memorable victory chasing down a formidable target of 387.