When Rahul Dravid was India captain, he was once asked at a press conference about Yuvraj Singh’s “poor” conversion rate; that he didn’t have too many ODI hundreds to show for. Dravid’s dignity prevented him from rebuking the reporter but his reply had enough sarcasm. “At No. 5, 6 or 7, you don’t get enough balls to score a century in 50-over cricket. You should judge the batsmen who bat there on the impact they make; their strike-rates,” Dravid had said.
On Monday, Yuvraj called time on a career that spanned close to two decades and had 14 centuries in 304 ODIs. His strike-rate, north of 87, is one of the very best in the short-form. Weakness against the short ball was a reason why he couldn’t replicate his ODI success in Test cricket. But in a country obsessed with numbers – runs scored, centuries made and milestones achieved – Yuvraj was never about those arid statistics. He was one of the greatest match-winners in white-ball cricket
In the very second ODI of his career, at the ICC KnockOut (Champions Trophy) in October 2000, the left-hander, only 19 years old then, had scored a match-winning 80-ball 84 against Steve Waugh’s all-conquering Australia. Sachin Tendulkar had the second highest score in the Indian innings, 38. But Yuvraj became a star two years later, at the NatWest Trophy final against England at Lord’s. Chasing 326 for victory – an improbable task in those days – India looked dead and buried at 146/5. The batting galacticos were gone. What happened next became a part of the Indian cricket folklore. A 121-run sixth wicket partnership between Yuvraj and Mohammad Kaif laid the platform for a spectacular comeback and an unlikely win. Yuvraj’s 69 off 63 balls rattled England. Kaif stayed there till the end to help India secure one of their finest ODI victories
Yuvraj carried his X-factor till the 2011 World Cup, where he won four Man-of-the-Match awards and ran away with the Man of the Tournament prize. He scored a century against West Indies at Chepauk. But his best knock of the tournament – 57 not out – came in the quarterfinal against Australia at Motera. At 187/5, India stared at elimination, chasing 262 for victory. Yuvraj, who else, refused to budge. By the way, six sixes against Stuart Broad came at the inaugural World T20 in 2007. He was a man for big moments
After the 2011 World Cup catastrophe struck, when he was diagnosed with a germ cell cancer. “It was like touching the sky and then falling down at light speed and hitting the ground hard,” Yuvraj told reporters at his farewell press conference today. That he hit the deadly disease for a six and came back to play for India was the biggest trophy he won in his life; far bigger than two World titles
Retirement was long overdue. Then again, it was sort of end of an era – the Sourav Gauguly’s boys, who sanitised Indian cricket from the dark shadows of match-fixing at the turn of the century. Harbhajan Singh is the last man standing.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines