I very greatly fear I have seen the last of Yuvraj Singh as an India cricketer and it is a thought that fills me with much sadness. He has often stopped me in my tracks, taken my breath away, made me drop whatever I was doing. He wasn’t in the business of scoring runs, that was mundane, he was in the profession of joy. When he batted well, he struck the ball more cleanly than anyone else, his bat swing and the arc it created were a sight to behold. There was an elegance about him, breaking through from time to time from the swagger that defined him. He made you want to watch cricket.
He struggled too, frequently in fact. It was as if there was a bug in the software that ran his batting. Like with everyone else in the game, the bat sometimes resembled an implement, it was like a friend he didn’t really get along with but had to walk alongside nonetheless. Most often those moments appeared in test cricket; a slightly distant friend he wooed desperately, occasionally got a date with but was largely kept at arm’s length.
If test cricket was the sole parameter of accomplishment, Yuvraj Singh might go down as a decent cricketer. But it isn’t and it needn’t be. True, it demands great skill from you, and over an extended period, but there are other skills that lovers of test cricket, in their snobbishness, sometimes look down upon. Limited overs cricket demands different skills and Yuvraj had those in plenty. His treasury was full.
It was in Nairobi in 2000 that, as a slightly gawky youngster, he grabbed our eyeballs and imprisoned them. His eighty against a powerful Australian team was fresh and invigorating. He was one of two that day, Zaheer Khan was the other, who told us a new generation was on its way. In a couple of years Harbhajan Singh and Virender Sehwag would join them. They thought differently and they backed themselves. Many years later Yuvraj and Zaheer, now good friends, would embark on a journey of survival, put their complaining bodies to the most daunting test and live humbly like they often had to when they started out. It would have been the most dramatic screenplay but the clock only moves one way. There is nothing more uncompromising.
Between Nairobi and Dhaka, Yuvraj’s journey was a roller-coaster. Cricket made him rich beyond imagination but he had to endure much pain. He is a prankster and seemingly in love with life but beneath it is a deeply sensitive young man. I have met people who are not what they seem to be. Yuvraj, I suspect, is one of those, a flashy lifestyle, glamorous friends, society headlines but a simple, sensitive person just beneath. I don’t know him beyond conversations in travel and the odd continued…