Yuvraj Singh rise got higher and higher as he was noticed by the Indian selectors, and came into reckoning of making his dream debut for India. It was in his second one-day international that Yuvraj Singh became a household name in the country. However, he was not able to fully cement a place in the Indian ODI team following a fluctuation in combinations being tried out for the World Cup 2003 in South Africa.
Considering the pressure on him, it was outstanding to see Yuvi score at a strike rate above 100 as his 69 came off 63 balls. It is a dream of any aspiring cricketer to play Test cricket for his country some day, despite the advent of T20 cricket over the last nine years.
His rise was so high that although he has never been made the captain of the Indian team, he was made vice-captain at one stage and was seen leading the team on the field sometimes when Rahul Dravid, the captain or Virender Sehwag were off the field.
But come the 2007 T20 World Cup in South Africa and there was enough evidence of the fact that why Yuvraj Singh is one of the biggest match winners for India. Four years later, and it was the 50 over World Cup in the Indian subcontinent which marked Yuvraj’s maturity as a player.
More importantly, the tournament was an example of Yuvraj’s dedication when it comes to playing for his country and knowing the event he was playing in. Yet, he picked up 15 wickets and smashed 362 runs in 9 matches of the tournament, which took India to a World Cup victory in the 50 over format after 28 years. The Punjabi southpaw has participated in three 50 over World Cups till date as well as all the three 20 over World Cups to have taken place so far.
Yuvraj was then only two and a half years old in international cricket, so he made use of this tournament to ensure that the Indian selectors keep an eye on his performances so that he is retained in the side. However, after that there was nothing much from Yuvraj to see as he scored only 45 runs in the next three matches which included small contributions in the semifinal against Kenya and the final against the Aussies. Four years later, and Yuvraj was a much improved player when India headed to the shores of the Caribbean in the attempt to move one step further from 2003 and win the World Cup. In the defeat, Yuvraj scored 47 off 58 balls, being the second highest scorer with Ganguly’s 66 taking precedence. Yuvraj made one of the biggest mistakes of his life by running a non-existent single, with captain Rahul Dravid at their end as that partnership was crucial for India to hit back in the match.
In the first match against Bangladesh at Dhaka, he was not required to bat but the situation was different against England in the next game at Bangalore. However, Yuvraj hit two more back to back fifties to guide India to wins over pushover teams such as Ireland and Netherlands. The only big failure for Yuvraj in the tournament was against South Africa where he failed to make an impact with the bat, scoring just 12 runs off 9 balls despite India being in a situation which was ideal for his style of batting, which is to attack and attack. Yet, he covered up for it in the match against West Indies in Chennai, which was the last group game before the knockout stages. It was fitting that he hit the winning runs as once again Yuvi had helped India knock out the world champions from an ICC event.
April 2, 2011 would always be etched in the minds of every Indian fan, but more in Yuvraj’s mind as he was rewarded with the man of the tournament for having scored 362 runs in aggregate, averaging a mesmerizing 90.5 and picking up as many as 15 wickets in the competition which included a five wicket haul against Ireland. His overall record in 50 over World Cups is 678 runs in 21 innings, averaging 32.29 and 20 wickets in 11 matches. When it comes to T20 World Cups, Yuvraj had one of the most memorable tournaments of his life in the 2007 edition in South Africa where he ended with 148 runs in 5 innings at an average of 29.60 but more importantly, a strike rate of 194.74! In the 2009 World T20 in England, he had a better showing than the last time but unfortunately it did not help India qualify for the semifinals, having been knocked out in the Super Eights round itself, therefore not defending the title successfully. While in 2010 in the West Indies, he had a mediocre tournament with the bat as he scored 74 runs in 5 matches at a poor average of 18.5.
The two years, 2005 and 2006 were the best years of his career in which he flourished under the captaincy of Rahul Dravid and the coaching of Greg Chappell.
Three more hundreds were to follow at home; one was against Australia in Hyderabad in 2007 which was his second ton at the venue.
He scored another hundred in Sri Lanka in January 2009, while his last century came in the World Cup 2011 against West Indies in Chennai. Despite having played over a decade of international cricket, Yuvraj has never been able to cement a spot in the Test team and when he has been able to achieve it, it is on a recurring basis. This is probably due to the fact that India’s batting line-up has been so powerful and in top form over the years that the likes of Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman and Sourav Ganguly have not given him an opportunity to play. Yuvraj has mentioned how desperate he is to play Test cricket on a regular basis for India, however his statistics will not win him a place in the team on merit. His third and final Test century was yet again made against Pakistan but this was in India in the 2007 series. His finest moment however in this format of the game was the unbeaten 85 he hit against his favourite opponents England at Chennai in the first Test of the 2008 series, right after the terror attacks in Mumbai.
Hence, credit has to be given to the IPL to make Yuvraj a better bowler especially in the shorter formats of the game, making him a batting all-rounder India need for the future if they have to prove that they deserve to be world champions.
In 2011, he was not retained by Kings XI Punjab following a poor season the previous year despite not being captain.
The exuberant character that is, Yuvraj is no stranger to controversies, whether it is on the field or off the field. However, he has rarely got into trouble with the ICC in terms of his on-field behavior and has made India proud of the way he plays. Perhaps, Yuvraj could have been a much fitter and hence a greater modern day player if he would keep his partying antics in control. Currently, as it is now known across the cricketing globe and not just India, Yuvraj is suffering from cancer in his left lung which is fortunately in the first stage, making it curable as per the doctors whom he has consulted. However, there is no such fear so far which means that he can come back into playing international cricket in the future. Or even in cricket, a South African cricketer called Dave Callaghan had also suffered from the same disease in 1991.
Yuvraj says he is a fighter, and we have seen his capabilities in the World Cup last year that he can play even in the worst of pain. Therefore, it comes as a shock to many when it became known that Yuvraj Singh was a roller-skating champion as a 12 year old school boy but his father threw away his roller skates in order to make him disciplined enough, to one day represent India on the cricket field. His father, Yograj Singh, was a former cricketer who had played 1 Test match for India, and his first Test wicket was the man who would go on to coach India later and ironically allow the growth of Yuvraj as a cricketer, New Zealand’s John Wright. A few good performances won him a place in the Indian U-19 team for the World Cup in Sri Lanka in January 2000, which the team would go on to win, led by Mohammad Kaif, with whom he would go on to form one of the finest fielding partnerships in Indian cricket especially when Sourav Ganguly was captain of the team. He did so in the ICC Champions Trophy in Kenya in October 2000 against the home team, with India needing a dearth of young players for a complete makeover of the team, as per the plans of Ganguly, who was obviously uncompromising yet encouraging as the recently appointed Indian captain in all formats of the game. The match was against Australia and it was the quarterfinal of the ICC Champions Trophy 2000.
By the time England finally got rid of him, they were in the backseat as India required 59 runs off 50 balls with four wickets in hand.
Yuvraj’s ODI exploits made him eligible to be selected in the playing XI in the second Test against New Zealand in his hometown, Chandigarh in October 2003 following Sourav Ganguly not participating in the match due to an injury. Fortunately for India, Yuvraj is that type of a cricketer who prefers to focus on his individual game and does not possess the leadership qualities in him to captain the country or any team for that matter. He hit 6 sixes in an over off England’s fast bowler Stuart Broad, in a crunch Super 8 game.
Yuvraj seems to enjoy playing the champions in a global event as he yet again proved to be a thorn in their path of victory.
He had clearly grown into a versatile all-rounder, which India has always searching for in the one-day game but have not found much success in their pursuit. It has been revealed that Yuvraj played under some pain in his lung, which has now bubbled into cancer.
India also became the first team to lift the trophy at home and achieving a rare double of winning a T20 as well as a 50 over World Cup. Beginning with the 50 over version of the tournament, the first time he participated in it was in 2003 in South Africa, where India went with vigour under the leadership of Sourav Ganguly. He had a poor start, scoring just 45 runs in the first four matches India played in the tournament. Kenya batted first, only to finish with 225 runs on the board batting the entire 300 balls out. He finished the tournament with 190 runs in 10 innings at an average of 27.14, which is average figures for a player to bat extremely lower down the order but decent due to some of his match winning knocks. Individually, Yuvraj had a decent tournament but India’s run lasted for only three matches, as they were knocked out in the first round itself, with the defeat against the low ranked Bangladesh at Port of Spain, Trinidad playing catalyst to it. But India were shot out for 191 in 49.3 overs and the match was as good as over at half team itself with the team’s confidence completely shattered. India won comfortably by 257 runs, with a glimmer of hope that they could beat Sri Lanka as the batsmen seemed to have found some form. The 30 year old saved the best for the last; the last in this case is the biggest tournament of them all in the cricketing calendar. This match marked the return of the Yuvraj the world actually knows, with his strokes on the off side being more confidence and the stride with the bat not being half-hearted, therefore going for shots time and again. While with the ball, he picked no wickets in his 8 overs which proved to be costly as South Africa won by 3 wickets. Batting at No.4, he hit a scintillating 113 runs off 123 balls, as the innings took the game away from an already depleted West Indies side. Yuvraj decided to turn it on against the Aussies prior to the game itself, giving them the taste of their own medicine, as his brashness had returned. Against Sri Lanka, Yuvi picked two more wickets but for just 49 runs in 10 overs, and was at the crease when Dhoni hit a towering six over the long run off Nuwan Kulasekara to ensure that India won the championship as he remained not out on 21 off 24 balls. This also established him as one of the most sought-after T-20 players in world cricket, with his six of 119 m off the bowling of Brett Lee being the longest of the tournament.
Yuvi was the highest run getter for India in the competition with 156 runs in 5 games at an average of 39 at a strike rate of 115.56, which is magnificent for T20 cricket.
The team was in such pathetic form that they deserved to be once again thrown out of the competition in the Super Eights stage, as the IPL seemed to have made them completely exhausted and as a result disinterested in playing cricket.
Having played 274 matches, he has loads to experience which is crucial to India’s success in one-day cricket atleast till the 2015 World Cup in Australia.
In terms of fielding, he has taken 84 catches in ODIs, making him one of the topmost fielders India has ever possessed in this format of the game. His first ODI hundred came in a match against Bangladesh in Dhaka, right after the World Cup 2003.
He scored 1560 runs in 40 ODIs, at an average of 39 and involved four more hundreds in his tally. This was an innings of controlled aggression as Yuvraj this time had to play according to the situation, since he was running out of partners at the other end.
In the first ODI of the 5-match series at Rajkot, he made excellent use of the batting conditions as he walloped the mediocre English bowling attack for 138 runs off a mere 78 balls, at a colossal strike rate of 176.92 and hitting 16 fours and 6 sixes, therefore carrying from where he left off in the World T-20 2007 match against the same opposition. As well as the fact that his style of batting is not suited for Test cricket since he does not possess the temperament to bat for long hours and play especially in swinging conditions. He scored 220 runs in four innings, which included a gritty 112 on a green top in Lahore in the first innings when the rest of the batsmen struggled. It was two years later on a minefield of a wicket in Karachi in the final Test of the 2006 series.
The innings is special because India was set a massive target of 387 to win by England and Sachin Tendulkar needed someone along with him at the crease to help India reach home. Sometimes he was tried as an opener, which proved to be unsuccessful since the Indian team management failed to realize that Yuvraj does not have the game to be an opener in Test cricket and he was not needed at the top with Sehwag already there to thrash a bowling attack. His 6 sixes in the 2007 World T20 had made him the hottest property in the format of the game and so he was named captain and the icon player of the Preity Zinta-owned Kings XI Punjab team in the 2008 and 2009 season. The next season, which was in South Africa, saw Punjab finishing fifth in the tournament, narrowly missing out reaching the last four for the second time.
He was instead picked by the new franchise, Pune Warriors India owned by the Sahara group of companies, which is in the news off late for backing out of the sponsorship of the Indian cricket team and perhaps the ownership of the Pune team. Although it finished ninth out of the ten teams in the last year’s IPL, Yuvi did well by scoring 343 runs in 10 innings, with two fifties to his name.
He is known for his rivalry against England in particular, just as Harbhajan Singh is against Australia.
His performances have never been under scrutiny and as a result, he has maintained a squeaky clean image when it comes to playing for India atleast. He has been a huge party-goer and seems to enjoy life to the fullest in discotheques or bars where he gets the opportunity to dance or drink with his group of friends. Yet, he has to be admired for battling with his problems in his personal life well enough to have a decent professional life, as it is for certain that his performances on the field are not affected by all this. But it is always a mountainous task for any sportsperson to return from cancer and play competitively and professionally in a sport. If he recovers successfully, there is nothing like it for India who need him back in the ODI team since they still lack a potent all-rounder, although Ravindra Jadeja who could be called his replacement, is making rapid strides. That was the turning point in his life and perhaps for Indian cricket, since from that day on Yuvraj’s journey of gradually falling in love with cricket had begun. The world champions were upset in the end by 20 runs, as they failed to recover from the Yuvraj blitz in time.
His moment in the sun was his half century in the final against the hosts at the ‘Home of Cricket’, Lord’s.
Yuvraj batting at No.6, alongside Mohammad Kaif put together a splendid 121 run partnership for the sixth wicket as India kept remaining in the hunt. India won by 2 wickets in what was one of the greatest one-day internationals of all-time and the highest run chase in ODI cricket for a period of time. He did not contribute significantly on his Test debut scoring just 25 runs in the game, but it would definitely go down for him as one of the finest moments of his playing career.
So Yuvi was one of the most experienced players in the team and he had to make his seven years of experience in international cricket, count in the shortest format of the game.
The brutality of that innings was due to the fact that he was fired up, after a verbal duel with all-rounder Andrew Flintoff which showed that nobody should mess with Yuvraj otherwise they or their team faces dire consequences.
He was promoted to bat up the order at No.4 and hit 70 runs off only 30 balls, as India prevailed by 15 runs and achieved a place in the final against archrivals Pakistan.
To win four man of the match awards, in a tournament like the World Cup is no meager accomplishment. For any sportsperson or athlete, it is not facile to play when you are suffocated from within due to a shortage of breath. However, he covered up soon in the match against England (yet again!) at Kingsmead, Durban.
The team was set a target of 274 to win the game courtesy a dogged batting performance by Pakistan.
Bangladesh won by 6 wickets, which left India to win both their matches against Bermuda and Sri Lanka to qualify for the Super Eights and that too at an impressive net run rate. However, the team failed miserably against the Lankans too as they were comprehensively beaten by a margin of 69, not being able to chase a target of slightly above 250.
He came into the tournament after suffering from a long period of slump, for 18 months or so due to poor form resulting from injuries which also saw him dropped from the ODI team for the first time in his career in the summer of 2010. All the dives, the accurate throws and the acrobatic catches also made a grand comeback and it felt as if the young, enthusiastic Yuvraj had returned and not the pale shadow of the player a year ago who was struggling to get runs or even literally stand on the field for long. He hit 58 off just 50 balls, at a strike rate of 116 as he was also involved in important fifty run partnerships with Sachin Tendulkar and MS Dhoni. His ten fours and two sixes played the anchor role in taking India to a total of 268 all out in 49.1 overs. He took digs at the Australian’s poor form leading up to the game, targeting captain Ricky Ponting in particular. Yet, Suresh Raina and he put together a stunning 74 run partnership for the sixth wicket as he sealed the game for India with three boundaries in an over off Brett Lee being the highlight of his innings. He played so well that this was his fourth man of the match award in the competition, easily an all time World Cup record. He has as many as 8051 runs to his name at an average of 37.62, remaining not out 38 times. Although the level of fielding has reduced in the last 18 months due to injuries, if anyone in the Indian team can be considered close to resembling someone like Jonty Rhodes, it has to be Yuvraj Singh. He remained not out at 102 off just 85 balls with as many as 9 fours and 4 sixes, which took India to a total of 276 in 50 overs.
It was Yuvraj who played a big hand in India’s 16 consecutive chases in ODI cricket being successful ones from a period of October 2005 – May 2006. His 122 off 115 balls was the story of a one-man army performance of India, as they lost by 47 runs chasing 290 to win.
With the help of Gautam Gambhir and Yusuf Pathan, Yuvraj stayed at the crease till the last over, facing 122 balls and scoring 118 runs. This time though, Sourav Ganguly was involved in a 300 run partnership with him for the fifth wicket before Yuvi fell, facing 203 balls in his innings. They did so eventually by 6 wickets with Yuvraj batting with great application, as he faced 131 balls in the innings, not worried about the pace at which he was scoring. But he picked up his first hat-trick in T20 cricket against the Royal Challengers Bangalore in Durban, when he dismissed Robin Uthappa, Mark Boucher and Jacques Kallis in back-to-back deliveries. Since he has had verbal duels with Andrew Flintoff and Kevin Pietersen, after he called him a ‘pie-chucker’ for his bowling action in November 2008. Or for that instance, he also has had a long list of girlfriends, perhaps the longest amongst any current player in the Indian team as he favours the spicy Bollywood actresses such as Kim Sharma, Deepika Padukone, Riya Sen and Minisha Lamba to name a few. It is unsure whether will the cancer have a long-term impact on his life span since people with lung cancer tend to survive for a maximum of five years. Yuvraj’s biggest source of inspiration has to be the cycling legend from the USA, Lance Armstrong who fought cancer from the age of 25, mainly with a positive attitude in his mind that he will do more than just to survive and defy medical reports. While in Tests, this period of time will be his best opportunity to win the No.6 spot or any other in the batting line up as such, since the seniors are under pressure to call it a day anytime soon. What was to follow was a complete shredding of the mighty Australian bowling attack which comprised of Glenn McGrath, Brett Lee and Jason Gillespie. Not to mention, he was named the man of the match for that effort which took India into the semifinals of the tournament, going on to lose in the final to New Zealand. Although Kaif won the man of the match award, Yuvi’s support act was instrumental in this victory and sealed him a place in the ODI team on a more consistent basis. Those two fifties proved to be the ultimate difference in helping India emerge victorious in the inaugural edition of the World Twenty20, and a first global event win for the country since the 1983 World Cup in England. It implies the tremendous form Yuvi was in, and the consistency at which he won India matches throughout the competition. The passion with which he approaches cricket could be seen with the tears in his eyes after the final as well as the pride in receiving that award, despite facing a slump since the last 18 months or so prior to the championship.
His 38-ball 42 proved to be vital in India’s score turning out to be exactly 250 in 50 overs. Alongside Ganguly, he added 118 for the fifth wicket and once again hit an unbeaten half century to avoid suffering an upset in the hands of Kenya. While ofcourse his alongside Mohammad Kaif’s fielding was electrifying and pleasing to the Indian eye, as there could have been many runs saved by them which could have otherwise been detrimental to India. Yuvraj Singh ended with 126 runs in 3 matches, at an average of 42 but he would definitely not remember this competition. India finished at 338 all out in 49.5 overs, but the match was a tie as England batted well on a flat wicket, which exposed the frailties of the Indian bowling attack.
But he alongside Yusuf Pathan finished the match off in style as the target was accomplished with 24 balls to spare. The opposition was bowled out for 188, with Yuvraj bowling four overs and taking two wickets, of wicket-keeper batsman Devon Thomas and all-rounder Andre Russell which was a good wicket since he is no mut with the bat.
It may have proved to be effective as Australia won the toss and struggled to put up a sizeable total on the board. Yuvraj maintains an amazing strike rate of 87.58, and has scored a lowly 13 hundreds but 49 half centuries. He must have saved the maximum amount of runs for India on the field and is accountable for the fielding standards of the team to have improved in the last decade, which can give them a competitive advantage from the rest of the teams. Both of them ended with hundreds but the Yuvi one was more entertaining, scored at a much brisker pace. He formed solid partnerships with captain Dravid and the then emerging wicketkeeper batsman MS Dhoni to play the role of the go-getter who finished off matches for the team on his own will, leaving others to adapt as per the situation. It took India to a total of 292 in 50 overs, and it proved to be enough as England were bundled out for 238.
Once again, there was no one to support him at the other end, as India lost embarrassingly by 341 runs and consequently the series 0-1. India reached 626 all out but had to settle for a draw, having missed out by just three wickets as Yuvraj made the match interesting with his two wickets in the second innings. While another hat-trick was in store of him in the round robin game against the eventual champions, Deccan Chargers where he picked Herschelle Gibbs, Andrew Symonds and Venugopala Rao in consecutive deliveries. Famously, in the World T20 semifinal against Australia in 2007, he famously started abusing as a part of a wild celebration after taking a catch in the deep.
He was also linked with his team owner and another actress, Preity Zinta for a period of time.
India went to on to beat England by 82 runs, which marked the beginning of India’s turnaround in the tournament from being mere pushovers to serious title contenders.
Yuvraj Singh joined Rahul Dravid at the crease and together they added all those runs required to win, therefore negating the possibility of a repeat of Chennai 1999. Ganguly may have scored a gritty hundred, but who knows what would have happened if Yuvraj did not end up with a 58 not out off just 64 balls?
Plus, he bowled his heart out, picking up 2 wickets for 44 runs in his 10 overs, which included the big scalps of the well-settled wicketkeeper batsman Brad Haddin and Michael Clarke, who is one of the best players of spin in the Australian side.
By the time he was out with four balls to spare in the innings, he had done the damage by smashing 139 runs off only 122 balls, involving 16 fours and 2 sixes. Yuvi starred with the ball as well, picking 4 wickets for 28 runs in 10 overs which included wickets of the top order batsmen such as Matt Prior, Owais Shah, Andrew Flintoff and captain Kevin Pietersen.
Yuvraj hit 50 off just 53 balls, remaining not out as he played with a positive mindset, taking advantage of good batting conditions. Yuvraj took his time and had an able partner in Dhoni to help India reach the target, winning by 5 wickets.
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