The last time Yuvraj Singh scored a hundred, it was five years back against the West Indies in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011. Mind you, he was not at his fittest best way back then. From throwing up on the field to trying to catch his breath because of the still-to-be-diagnosed cancer, the man struggled, huffed and puffed his way to his century before finally holing out at the deep out of tiredness.
Today was different. Today Yuvraj Singh was in his elements. Today he was the Yuvraj who outscored Bihar’s first innings of 357 alone when he was just 19. Today he batted like a man who owned England just like he did in the Natwest final in 2002. Today he batted with the flair and disdain that earned him the name, ‘Broad basher.’ Today he was at his leanest, fittest and definitely at his strongest best. Today it was Yuvraj who stopped time and space when he cannon-balled the white ball all over the park. Today was Yuvraj who gave the world a sign that he is not done. Not just yet.
Today was not just about Yuvraj, it was also about the man who scored a century after two years. MS Dhoni is now a free man. He batted like a man who is burden-free, who dutifully bench pressed the weight of captaincy and is now flexing his muscles after asking Virat Kohli to pound the next set.
Back to Yuvraj. 150 after five years. 150 that made him the only Indian to score the most number of runs against England. Now, if you want to crunch some numbers, Yuvraj now has 1478 runs in 35 innings against England as opposed to Sachin Tendulkar who previously held the record with 1455 runs. This, is also his career best score in ODIs and also by highest individual runs scored against England in an innings.
India were in a tight situation. Just like the last game. Except that, this time it was Virat Kohli who was back in the hut. Out strode Yuvraj, back straight, a sponsor-less bat which had the ‘YWC’ sticker and a white octopus grip. There was just grim determination. And then there was that stance which we last saw him use when he played for the Royal Challengers Bangalore in 2013. The same stance that helped him flick the ball and make it disappear into the second tier of the M Chinnaswamy against Rajasthan Royals and the Delhi Daredevils.
With MS Dhoni at the other end, Yuvraj who spoke about playing ‘fearless cricket’ earlier took that line to a whole new level. For some time, Morgan and Co. would have thought, whose wicket should they really be looking for? At one end was Yuvraj, who was timing the ball and playing some succulent drives taking the aerial route more often than not. The there was another man who unleashed brute force on the hapless English bowlers. Those booming shots were in full display as MS Dhoni took England to the cleaners.
A lot has changed. For those who have read his autobiography, ‘The test of my Life,’ here is an instance when he began chemotherapy. “The first time I watched the liquid drop down into the tube into my arm, I wondered what would happen when it would do its business. And I took just two days to find out. On day one, I just sat doing nothing for five hours waiting for the drugs to kick in. On day two, I felt my face swell. On day three, I was at the hotel room watching TV when I suddenly felt a horror catch hold of my throat. I can’t describe it. It was the feeling in the throat that plunged me to terrifying gloom.” Now he fought this too. For three months. He cried, he whined and he almost gave up. Almost. But he hung in there, just so that he could swing the bat again, to live for cricket and to die another day.
What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. In this case, it made Yuvraj the strongest. He is now immune to failure, to harsh criticism and yes, definitely any bit of sympathy. Personal battles aside, he battled his way back to the Indian side. He maybe 35 now, but today’s knock definitely makes life hard for the Pandeys and the Rainas. For someone as talented as Yuvraj, who is a match winner and is a force to reckon with, numbers must not really be counted. This is about a man whose grit and determination was in full display apart from his rampaging innings.
A closer look when he reached his hundred, there was just a prayer, and a touch of the bat handle to the India crest on his chest. Moisture-filled eyes that fought back the tears welling up, but held back because the idea was to make the opposition cry.
Yuvraj is not done, by any means, this is a man who has played three World Cups and is definitely hungry for more. He is ageing like fine wine. The older, the better.
Before winding up this piece, it’s time to end with a line from the movie, MS Dhoni, where a young Dhoni said this about his first close encounter with Yuvraj: “Phir batting karne aata hai Yuvraj Singh. Bahut maara, dhaaga khol diya ekdum..!!