When all is well with Yuvraj Singh, he hits the ball as clean and long as it has ever been hit. When all is not well, he looks so awkward you forget he can hit the ball clean and long. All has been well with Yuvraj more often in limited-overs cricket, where he can be effortless and brutal at the same time, than in Tests, though his form and consistency has been on the decline since his comeback following a recovery from a rare form of germ cell cancer in 2012. When he started off, though, his athleticism on the field and his canny left-arm spin made him a key one-day player as Indian cricket went through a makeover at the turn of the century.
Yuvraj’s father, Yograj, who played one Test for India, was what Mike Agassi was to Andre. So obsessed was he with Yuvraj’s cricket that he took a skating gold medal off his young son’s neck and threw it out of the car. “From now on, you are going to play cricket.” And from then on he has played cricket. The major shift came when, at 15, he carried kitbags in crowded local trains, living away from his parents and a luxurious life in Punjab. At 18 he was shredding a strong Australian attack, in only his second ODI, in the Champions Trophy in 2000.
Soon Yuvraj would become India’s middle-order lynchpin, forming fruitful partnerships first with Rahul Dravid and then with MS Dhoni. Both batsmen, superb ODI operators in their own right, credited their success to Yuvraj’s ability to score at will. Testament to Yuvraj’s importance is that when he was dropped from the ODI side in 2010, it was the first such occurrence since he cemented his place in the Indian team. His ODI career is full of highlight reels, with the biggest impact being his contribution to India’s World Cup triumph in 2011 – 362 runs, 15 wickets, and four Man-of-the-Match awards, and the Player of the Tournament. That put to shade even his awesome achievement in the World T20 triumph in 2007, where he famously hit a Stuart Broad over for six sixes.
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