It was October 7, 2000. India was playing Australia in the ICC knockout in Nairobi, Kenya. After batting first, India was struggling at 130-4 in the 25th over. In came an 18-year-old lanky left-hander taking guard for the first time in international cricket. There was not an ounce of fear or anxiety on his face. He slashed his blade confidently to the likes of Glen McGrath, Brett Lee and Jason Gillespie. The fours flowed effortlessly from his bat, and he ran like a hare between the wickets. When he was dismissed, he had made an attractive 84 off 80 balls with 12 fours and had helped India reach a respectable total. His bat swing had everyone in awe.
Later that evening, that young man took an excellent diving catch and affected a terrific run-out – both from the cover region – that helped India register a famous win. Yuvraj Singh had arrived and grandly.
In the next decade and a half, the left-hander would go on to become one of the finest match-winners in limited overs cricket for India. He was instrumental in winning India two of its most significant triumphs of this era – the 2011 ODI World Cup and the 2007 T20 World Cup victories. And he shall also be remembered for the six sixes he hit against Stuart Broad in the 2007 World T20.
Earlier this week, the stylish left-handed announced his retirement from all forms of cricket. While this was a shock to many fans, the news wasn’t shocking as Yuvi, as he was popularly known, wasn’t in good form or fitness for a while now and had no place in any Indian team. The 37-year-old’s retirement now brings an end to a glorious era when he featured with some of the biggest stars of Indian cricket.
When in flow, few batsmen could hit the ball as cleanly and effortlessly as Yuvraj did in the pre-T20 era. He also set high standards for fielding in an age where the Indian team was not known for its fielding.
Yuvraj’s battle with cancer is now well-known. It came at a time when he had just achieved a career high – of being the Man of the Tournament in the 2011 World Cup – and had almost finished his career. But Yuvi fought hard and made a comeback. And even though he couldn’t reach his earlier heights after his return, he did make some notable contributions in that second phase.
Overall, Yuvraj had a very good career in ODIs – he accumulated 8701 runs in 304 ODIs at an average of 36.55 with 14 hundred and 52 fifties. He also took 111 wickets with a best of 5-31. The left-hander also featured in 58 T20Is for India, scoring 1177 runs with eight fifties and taking 28 wickets.
One of the biggest disappointments of Yuvraj’s career was his mediocre show in Test cricket – 1900 runs in 40 Tests at an average of 33.92 with three hundred and 11 fifties. Had he shown some more patience, he could have ended with a great Test career with the talent he had.
But all good things must come to an end, and Yuvraj Singh’s career too now has ended. “It was a great roller-coaster ride and beautiful story, but it has to come to an end. It was the right time to go,” Yuvraj mentioned in an emotional address to his fans.
Yuvraj Singh shall always be remembered as a swashbuckling and fearless Indian batsman who played with utmost passion and gave it his all for his country. Here’s hoping that Yuvi’s next innings is even better than his first.