Yuvraj Singh will forever occupy a unique place in Indian cricket history, as one of the country’s greatest white ball players who could never make it in Test cricket.
If Kapil Dev is remembered as being India’s 1983 hero, leading the country to a maiden World Cup crown, in terms of impact, Yuvraj’s 300 plus runs and 15 wickets was gold standard in the 2011 World Cup.
Yuvraj always turned up on the big occasions – be it the Natwest final at Lord’s, the six sixes off Stuart Broad in a must-win World T20 game in Durban, or the quarter final half-century against Australia at Ahmedabad, Yuvraj Singh rocked the hardest when the going was the toughest.
Yuvraj was one of the batsmen who changed the way the sport was perceived in the mid-2010s. Had he not hit those six sixes off Stuart Broad, it is interesting to ponder how big a tournament Indian Premier League would have been.
Yuvraj went for big money in all the IPL auctions, but none of his greatest moments came in the T20 league. However, something would drastically change when Yuvraj would put on the blue colours of India’s limited-overs team.
Left-handed batsmen are known to be graceful, but Yuvraj had something additional – brute power. This power would make his strokes seem effortless, as the white ball flew to different parts of the park.
However, he would not have similar luck in the white jersey. He played just 40 Tests for India, while he played more than 300 ODIs.
He had a problem on slow decks against slow bowlers. He could never really get going against Muttiah Muralitharan.
‘Touching the sky and falling back down’
Being the son of a pushy father, who wanted his son to fulfill his own unrealized dreams, Yuvraj initially lived Yograj Singh’s dream.
Yograj, whose career coincided with that of the great Kapil Dev, could never come to terms with his failure as an international cricketer, with just one Test match. The stakes, therefore, were high for Yuvraj. He had to become a cricketer.
In Test cricket, Yuvraj remained confused as to where he belonged. By the time he could have got settled in the side, he was fighting the biggest battle of his life – cancer.
“It was like touching the sky and then falling down at light speed and hitting the ground hard. All this happened so quickly,” said Yuvraj.
His story post 2011 was a triumph of life rather than achievements on the cricket field.
In the 2014 World T20 final on a slow Mirpur track, his 11 off 21 balls was the biggest reason for India’s defeat against Sri Lanka.
He did make those sporadic comebacks but his fitness standards had dropped and the 2017 Champions Trophy was where his epitaph was written.
Yuvraj Singh might not have played the 100 Tests he could have, but he bows out of the game as one of the greatest legends of white ball cricket in India. His name will forever be taken in the same breath as Kapil Dev, Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni.