The Promise of a Prince
With Yuvraj Singh having announced his retirement from the international format, what better way to pay tribute to the ‘Prince of Indian cricket’ than to go over the numerous anecdotes from what has been a storied career?
Even during his days in Punjab’s youth set-up, Yuvraj Singh was the same self-assured presence as he has always been. Always a natural, his rise through the ranks was meteoric and as far as stories go, he has always had plenty!
Outscoring the entire Bihar team in the U-19 Cooch-Behar Trophy
As mentioned previously, Yuvraj Singh’s natural ability meant there was never any element of doubt in his game and as a youngster, the Chandigarh-born lad was always way ahead of his peers. Bihar state’s team got the first-hand experience of just how good Yuvraj was in the finals of the U-19 Cooch-Behar Trophy, the year 1999.
Bihar folded for 357 on day 2, with former Indian captain MS Dhoni, who was also part of the team, scoring 84. In comes Yuvraj Singh – batting at one down, the southpaw played two entire days worth of cricket to remain unbeaten at 358, one more run than the entire opposition team put together!
The innings made people get up and take note while interestingly, it was also one of the first times Dhoni and Yuvraj crossed paths.
NatWest Series Finals
For every Indian youngster growing up in the early 2000s, the first vivid memory of Indian cricket announcing itself on the international stage is the final(s) of the NatWest triangular series, all thanks to Yuvraj Singh and Mohammad Kaif.
On the back of 9 consecutive losses in ODI tournaments featuring three or more teams, India went to England, with little hope of competing against Sri Lanka and the hosts themselves. However, despite low expectations, they set up a final against the hosts after topping the table with 19 points.
Come the finals, India found themselves in dire straits – chasing a total of 326 to win when Yuvraj came in at 146/5. Along with Kaif, he somehow dug India out of the hole they found themselves in to post a gritty 69 off 63 before falling in the 42nd over, setting up his team for what eventually turned out to be a 3 wicket win with 3 balls to spare. Overnight, the 20-year old had turned into an Indian cricketing sensation and not to mention, a teenage heart-throb.
6 balls – 6 sixes
Indian cricket’s fascination with Yuvraj Singh reached new heights by the end of the 2007 T20 world cup that India won, and funnily enough, they had Andrew Flintoff to thank for it.
In India’s Super 8 tie against England, a heated exchange with England captain Flintoff before Stuard Broad’s over set Yuvraj off, who then proceeded to hit every single delivery of the over for a 6, scoring what was the fastest 50 in any form of cricket at the time.
Moreover, the feat has since never been repeated against a leading bowler from a test playing nation.
2011 World Cup – the best of Yuvraj Singh
‘Save the best for the last’, they say, and it is only fitting that the last memory everyone has of Yuvraj at his peak was the 2011 World Cup when India went on to win the tournament.
Four man-of-the-match awards en route to the cup ensured there was no one who could come between him and the man-of-the-tournament trophy. The first all-rounder to take 15 wickets and score 300+ runs in a World Cup, Yuvraj also became the first player to score 50 runs and take 5 wickets in a World Cup game as he broke a barrage of records despite the presence of what would later be diagnosed as a cancerous tumour in his lungs.
Cancer and final hurrah
The drama wasn’t over just yet and Yuvraj’s diagnosis with cancer plunged the entire nation into shock. Not one to quit, he battled through the illness and emerged victoriously. However, what it took perhaps was an eternal sacrifice.
The ‘Prince’ was never the same player again as his timing deserted him and he failed to replicate his old performances for the national team despite a plethora of chances – ultimately being dropped after failing the yo-yo test in late 2017, which was followed by Ravi Shastri’s infamous ‘You fail, you sail’ quote.
When Yuvraj Singh announced his retirement today, June 10, there was a feeling that it was long overdue. Yuvraj’s retirement, however belated, has finally allowed us time to reminisce over what has been and what might have been. While the illness that struck meant he was never the same again, the prodigal son of Indian cricket will surely go down in history as of the finest the country has ever produced.