The other day, when Yuvraj Singh was dispatching KXIP bowlers into the stands, it rekindled memories always associated with the basher. Just a year ago, he played an innings that almost brought down curtains on his swashbuckling career. Yes, that 21-ball 11 against Sri Lanka in the World Twenty20 final in Dhaka had every Indian cricket fan shocked and upset.
Royal Challengers Bangalore, who bought him for a whopping Rs.14 crores in the 2014 IPL auction, released him. His former protégé, leader of RCB Virat Kohli, had the entire team rally around him. And when his name didn’t feature in the 30 probables of the Indian squad for the World Cup 2015, it was another nail in the coffin.
Before being omitted from that list of probables, he raised everyone’s hopes by scoring three tons for Punjab in the Ranji Trophy. But the Indian team was looking set. They had made plans for life after Yuvraj well in advance, and the selectors didn’t play to the gallery. The man of the 2011 World Cup was not himself; at least the team management thought so.
With RCB having released him for that heavy price tag, the wise men at the auction tables still had faith in Yuvraj. After being tagged at Rs. 14 crores last season, despite lack of performance and not figuring in the Indian team, the Punjab dasher bagged a Rs. 16 crore contract with the Delhi Daredevils.
Gary Kirsten, who had been the backbone of a successful World Cup winning campaign in 2011, was at the helm of the Delhi franchise, and there was no one better to know what Yuvraj was worth. He knew that Yuvraj had beaten the odds many a times before, and he could beat this phase too.
Kirsten had seen first hand what a genuine match winner Yurvaj was. If not for him, MS Dhoni wouldn’t have ascended to a higher throne in 2011. He bowled, he batted, he saved the day and just gave that balance which was the core of the ultimate prize. All this while fighting the cancer inside him.
It would be foolish to write him off as the past tense of Indian cricket, knowing the battles he has fought in past. This season of IPL is the moment of truth for this man. Breaking into the Indian team will not be easy as most of the spots are sealed. The little hope he has would be to make it in place of Ambati Rayudu, who is currently struggling to middle the ball. Indian think tanks wouldn’t mind giving him a final try on the tour to Bangladesh. If Gautam Gambhir, at the end of a successful IPL 2014, made it to England, Yuvraj can definitely make it too. But he needs to have an outstanding IPL 2015 to even get back in reckoning.
With age not on his side, his chances take a 50% hit first up. But Indian cricket hasn’t seen a better battler than him for some time. He knows he is on thin ice, and situations may not be kind to him, but he will get even more respect for what he has done in past if he does something today. Leave alone his father’s unwanted and unwarranted rants, Yuvi is still a winner and still a champion who can command respect and love from one and all.
He also knows that this is his best, and probably last chance.