The agony of being Yuvraj Singh
Yuvraj Singh could well be wondering whether he’ll ever get out of his lean patch. The bigger question for those not within the team is whether he will get another chance to redeem himself.
The southpaw has been through these situations before, as manifest in his numerous comebacks into the Test and limited overs squads. If Mahendra Singh Dhoni is the captain he is hailed to be, he would have, by now, had a chat with Yuvraj on his chances for Friday’s World T20 game against Bangladesh. It is here where the difference between captaincy and leadership comes into the mix.
Tough Times: Will India’s star batsman Yuvraj Singh find a place in Friday’s playing XI against Bangladesh in the World T20? There’s good reason to believe MS Dhoni will pick him, but clearly, he’s not at his best
There is no doubt that Yuvraj has never been short of desire. When he settled into India’s one-day team after his impressive 84 against Australia at the 2000 ICC Knockout tournament in Kenya, he yearned for an opportunity in the Test team. He achieved that and unfortunately for him and India, he didn’t achieve the same kind of feats he accomplished in one-day cricket (Tests 40, Runs 1,900). At the same time, he could have been shown more patience.
One got the feeling that he was the eternal fall guy in an era of batting greatness. All his three Test centuries were scored against Pakistan, and two of them — Lahore 2004 and Karachi 2006 — went in vain.
It does appear that he has come to the end of his international career. Even though he’s only 32, he has been playing international cricket for 14 years, and that is no small period by any stretch of imagination.
While Yuvraj deserves to be persisted with at least for the ICC World T20, he needs to seriously consider whether he’s got enough fuel in the tank left to go beyond. In times of adversity, being realistic and staying positive is easier said than done. The inner demons appear bigger than what they actually are, and for a cricketer there is this huge business of scoring runs and taking wickets.
No one will ever know what is going through Yuvraj’s mind, but he’s been very fortunate to play in an era in which he got the best mentoring a player can hope for, courtesy Sachin Tendulkar, Anil Kumble, Rahul Dravid et al.
When we discuss the contribution of such class acts, never should we underplay their parental role in the dressing room and on the field. Here’s a very small example: A few hours after he scored his match-winning, unbeaten second innings hundred against England in Chennai in the first Test of the 2008 series, I asked Tendulkar whether the unsuccessful run chase against Pakistan at the same venue in 1999 entered his mind during the victory charge. He admitted that it did and said: “It was important to stay there till the end, and I remember telling my batting partner, Yuvraj Singh, that it’s still not over, so don’t relax. I recalled that close game against Pakistan in 1999 when we lost by 12 runs.” The 2008 scoreboard shows that Yuvraj stayed unbeaten on 85 in India’s six-wicket win.
When Kumble visited Yuvraj in a Boston hospital to find his former teammate probably falling into a valley of self-pity and reminiscing through YouTube videos of his innings, the master leg-spinner urged him to stop watching his videos and concentrate only on getting better. Now that was some masterstroke.
His illness apart, Yuvraj has had to endure a host of other challenges, something which can be forgotten in his ‘I’m-here-to-have-a-good-time’ image. Like it often happens, the people who make no bones about their love for the good life are often targeted, while the chupa rustoms get away.
Will Yuvraj find a place in Friday’s playing XI against Bangladesh? There’s good reason to believe Dhoni will pick him.
Will he go on and play another World event? Unlikely!
Nothing is more important than dear life, and Yuvraj’s cancer conquest means he may have fought his biggest enemy, which only few succeed in doing.
It will be hard to think about bidding international cricket goodbye, but this tournament could be critical to those thoughts.
Of course, there is the Indian Premier League where he has to do justice to his R14-crore deal with Royal Challengers Bangalore. Now, this will offer a unique set of challenges in a tournament not many are happy to say goodbye to.
Clayton Murzello is mid-day’s Group Sports Editor