|Illustration: Arati Gujar|
As long as cricket is watched, written, and talked about, people will reference Yuvraj Singh’s heroics at Kingsmead, as the southpaw bludgeoned six sixes in an over. It is the most astonishing moment of play that most of us will experience in our lifetime. Yuvraj Singh played it, Ravi Shatri narrated it, and fans across the world lived it. No one will ever forget what it felt like to be in that moment. As Yuvraj Singh calls curtains on his international career, his lasting legacy will be the delivery of such unforgettable moments, whether it was Natwest 2002, World T20 2007, or World Cup 2011.
There are very few sights in world cricket as pleasing as Yuvraj Singh with his trademark shuffle and beautiful backlift, getting to the pitch of the ball and effortlessly caressing it through covers for a boundary. Seemingly a gentle, almost lazy push, the ball would fly past the infield and no fielder had the audacity to move a muscle. They had the privilege of standing in awe, and appreciating the display. It is cliched to talk of left-handed batsmen and grace, but at the zenith of his powers, Yuvi’s feet moved like a ballerina dancer and his batting was pure art.
Make no mistake, when the situation demanded otherwise, he could also be a bully. Ask Stuart Broad, who got smoked over every part of the ground on that dreaded night in Kingsmead.
The difference between good players and great players lies in when they choose their moment. And Yuvraj was a man for the big occasion. The bigger the stage, the more likely it was to bring out the best in him. India has won two World Cups over the last 15 years, the inaugural T20 World Cup in 2007 and the ODI World Cup in 2011. Yuvraj Singh played a vital role in both, vice-captain in the former and Player of the Tournament in the latter.
When it came to ICC tournaments, Yuvi had no respect for previous records, current form, or fitness reports; he only cared for performance when it mattered most. It could be a 70 of 30, it could be a breakthrough with his modest left-arm floaters, or a moment of magic in the field. Yuvraj Singh could never be left out of a big game.
The only sight that could top Yuvraj’s style and flair with the willow was his gleeful million-dollar smile. Yuvi is the likeable darling of cricket, respected by opposition, adored by commentators, and loved by the fans. In him, supporters saw a character they could relate to, someone who was a celebrity on screen but was just like their friend. He was the young gun in a dressing room featuring Tendulkar, Ganguly, Laxman and Dravid, but that never stopped him from playing pranks on his teammates. Everytime he dived to his left and saved a boundary in the point region, he would share a grin with his buddy Mohammad Kaif fielding at covers. He wore his heart on his sleeve, and never shied away from a bit of bhangra after India had won a game. Yuvi is unapologetically stylish, has a dash of swagger about him, and is unabashedly himself, a persona that transcends the cricket field.
If Sachin Tendulkar is the God of cricket, Yuvraj Singh is the God of the Comeback, on the field and beyond. Dropped a few times from both the Test and ODI team, he always slogged it out in the domestic circuit, returning to form and giving the selectors a good headache. For their part, the fans kept rooting for him. Who could stop a man who had battled cancer to win the World Cup for his country? It was telling of not only his cricketing acumen, but his character as well.
Yuvraj Singh’s story isn’t lived only through his boundaries, wickets, and direct hits, it has also been lived through heartbreaking pictures from hospital rooms and videos of ecstatic celebrations after the World Cup finals. In a career full of highs and lows, Yuvraj Singh delivered memories that we will never forget in our lifetime.
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