A fortnight ago, when Yuvraj Singh, one of the greatest limited-overs players of all time, struggled in the 21 ball ordeal, he faced in the World T20 final against Sri Lanka in Dhaka, it sapped India’s momentum in the middle overs. His dismal performance eventually played a massive role in India’s defeat.
Thousands of fans, who worshipped him, suddenly became his supernatural enemies. Some of them even reveled in front of his house and reportedly pelted the building with stones. That was clearly a poignant tale of a celebrated cricketer who made the biggest impact with his contribution to India’s World Cup triumph in 2011 with 362 runs, 15 wickets, and four Man-of-the-Match awards, as well as the Player of the Tournament. It even put to shame his astounding feat in the World Twenty triumph in 2007, where he famously hit England’s Stuart Broad over for six sixes.
On Friday, Yuvraj played his first innings since that 21-ball 11, when his side, the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB), played the Delhi Daredevils in their opening game of 2014 Pepsi IPL at Sharjah Cricket Stadium. It was also his first innings for RCB, who paid a whopping Rs. 14 crore at the auction.
Chasing a decent target against Delhi, Yuvraj struggled in the first few shot balls from Mohammed Shami, his India teammate. The man at the other end, meanwhile, was Virat Kohli, whom he denied the strike during the 21-ball 11. This was the perfect affable platform for the left-hander to start his innings again. Delhi skipper Dinesh Karthick then sent New Zealand’s Jimmy Neesham to bowl. Yuvraj first ducked and then looked around in his usual style, before he picked-up a shot off Neesham to long on for six and then to the cover for four. Leg-spinner Rahul Sharma was next in the line of fire. Yuvraj punished Sharma for three mighty sixes. The superman of Indian cricket had returned to silence his critics.
At Dubai Sports City yesterday, Yuvraj looked more relaxed and comfortable. His unbeaten 40-ball 52 two days ago has given him much needed strength, which is relatively required for cricketers in this format of the game.
Speaking to NISHAD PADIYARATH in a brief chat, Yuvraj said he was deeply hurt by the wild reactions from fans who threw stones at his house. “I was so deeply hurt, and everyone thought it was the end of the road for me. Honestly, I cannot understand our people back home. They have such a short memory and tend to conveniently forget the good deeds and work,” he said.
Yuvraj also recalled the World Cup T20 final match on April 5 when he failed to score; the dashing southpaw said it was out of his hands. “I am not saying that we were great or I was great, but we did out in our very best and this is what all of us do for any team.
“We have our off days and remember the Lankans bowled and fielded well to restrict us. True, I was off track, but it’s not on purpose that such things take place. It was one of those days, that’s all. I have always played for India with a sense of pride and utmost passion and respect. People need to understand that even cricketers go through a bad phase and they, too, have a life to live,” he said.
Yuvraj thanked his friend and Bangalore captain Kohli, who played a persuasive role in signing him. “Virat has been a great help, not just on the field but outside, as well. He is a very good friend and well-wisher. Every time I go through such a phase, he comes and sits with me. That, itself, is a big relief,” Yuvraj noted.
He also praised Kohli’s transformation as one of the greatest finishers of the game. “It’s good to see him among the runs. He is a very talented cricketer who still has a long way to go. He has single-handedly guided India to many victories and I am sure he will turn out to be a legend one day,” Yuvraj added.
First published in Times of Oman on April 20, 2014