Updated: May 26, 2016 10:47:55 am
Being Yuvraj Singh seems, often these days, a shrivelling burden. The burden of renown not fully fulfilled, the burden of a glorious past weighing against a less glorious present, and an imminently bleak future staring right at his eyes. Then the burden of reputation, and, in no less cut-throat terms, the unblinking burden of a Rs 7-crore price-tag, duly reminded every time he failed. Then, the burden of having to prove himself all over again, at 34, with the best easily past him, the sunset fast shading his career. Then, the burden, to not be a liability.
It’s tough to fully grasp this crushing burden of being Yuvraj Singh. Easier it is for the lay onlooker to empathise with him–the unfortunate travails he endured while at the glowing peak of his career. The strain of empathy, or pity, though, is something the southpaw himself wouldn’t be appreciative of, for he had always been proud, defiant and robust, even through the most tragic phases of his life and career. You might gauge his mood through his body language, most often, but not the multiple wars his mind is waging and wading through. Beneath it all is that pure single-mindedness to unburden those heavy burdens.
So it was perhaps imperative that Yuvraj gave one more reminder that all is yet not lost with him, to shed aside a little bit of that cringing, if at times self-inflicted, burden. If Hyderabad Sunrisers lost the eliminator, he would have to end another season on a rueful note, as a billboard of Sunrisers unituitive auction strategising. For until this match, he had been just a quavering shadow of his audacious, imperious self–those snap adjectives thrown at a primeful Yuvraj. The seven previous outings yielded just 144 runs, with not a single 50-plus score, just a couple of scores over 25 and the highest score coming against the weakest side of the league. Whereas in the past his bowling utility has at time atoned for his batting failures, his bowling was nothing more than shoddy, his partnership-breaking canniness all but invisible.
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In a sense it was the sort of situation that’s custom-made for Yuvraj to hit back at his critics–the world-vs-Yuvraj war, something that has often summoned the best in him. But with age creeping up and the body resentful, it was a wild gamble that Yuvraj would ever fully be the player he once used to be, even if he was as desireful and willful as he had been in the prime of his youth. There have been stray, sporadic, glimpses of his wonted gifts, but those were too intermittent for him to be persisted with in the national fold, or even in the scheme of his franchise.
Then Yuvraj, always, had this incredible sense of occasion, from announcing himself to the world in just his second innings, callow and not yet out of his teens, his side in strife and against the world champions. Then, as still a wet-behind-the-ear youngster, orchestrating that heady, impossible run-chase at Lord’s, then in the 2007 T20 World Cup, then in the 2011 World Cup, match after match. There are enough highlight reels to ensure him Youtube immortality. The 30-ball 44, a cameo than an epic, would only enrich it.
Beyond the numbers
As with most of his memorable knocks, it can’t be fully appreciated, or judged, through cold numbers. It should be watched, for the sheer Yuvraj-ness of it, for the sheer kick it can induce of the viewers. For seldom in recent memory has there be a Yuvraj innings so Yuvraj-like in rendition. It was a sudden blast back to his blusterous past–those whirling wrists of his suddenly flashing back to life. One after the other flew those quintessential Yuvraj strokes–the swish through point, the nonchalant flicks, those whippy drives drives that fleeces down the ground, and the murderous sweeps, all punctuated by that imperious backswing of his.
There was a slightly uncharacteristic Yuvraj shot as well, as when he weaved away from Jason Holder’s leg-stump short-ball and tucked it past fine leg. He perished attempting a similar stroke, only that he crouched a little lower to scoop than guide the ball, only to see the ball sneak in under his bat to hit the stumps. Yuvraj trudged off vigorously shaking his head. Disappointed more than dismayed at not to have stayed till the end to steer his team to a total bigger than the 162 he managed.
The knock was priceless in terms of the context too. He came to bat at a critical time for Sunrisers, just when Moises Henriques and David Warner seemed to have put them back on track after Shikhar Dhawan’s impetuous exit. He came at the fall of Henriques, but even before he faced the first ball, saw Warner’s back as well. At 71 for three, with two of their standout batsmen back in the dugout, and a woefully thin on form and experience middle-order in company, the onus was on Yuvraj to lift his side to a competitive target, on a surface that had little malice to batsmen.
The fallibility of their middle-order was well-storied, and often his own form was allegorical of their ineptitude in this campaign. Those are names–Deepak Hooda, Ben Cutting and Naman Ojha–the bowlers wouldn’t feel exactly unnerved to bowl at. You can’t blame the Kolkata bowlers if they felt a drop in intensity. But Yuvraj found an unlikely ally in young Deepak Hooda, whose previous 12 outings had garnered just 116 runs. But in Yuvraj’s company, young Hooda showed glimpses of a young Yuvraj, nonchalantly smearing Sunil Narine for a six before disdaining Holder for another six. The 49 runs they collected from 6.1 overs made discernible difference in the final assessment.
There was one more Yuvraj moment for his diehards to treasure–the deadeye throw from point that ran out Colin Munro, so reminiscent of his heyday exuberance. And in the end of it all, with Sunrisers and Yuvraj living one more day in this IPL, one would assume that Yuvraj has shaken a little bit off the stifling burden he is shouldering.
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