A funny video on Yuvraj Singh’s Facebook feed is closing in on half-a-million reactions and likes. Shot in England during the ongoing ICC Champions Trophy, the 24-second audio-visual has him open and shut a door with mere gestures, almost like Magneto. And despite the light-veined nature of it, the clip is almost allegorical Yuvraj Singh’s cricket career.
It could only have been a superpower that pulled him out of the deep, dark clutches of an almost life-ending disease to go down into the annals of cricket history as a modern-day great.
Cricket analyst and commentator Harsha Bhogle writes about Yuvraj’s biography, “He couldn’t sleep, he was throwing up, he was constantly breathless, and he was winning Man-of-the-Match awards. The doctors told him afterwards that he could have died of a heart attack because the artery was being squeezed – and no one would have known he had cancer.” The left-hander ended the tournament — the biggest in limited overs cricket — in question as the man of the series.
Turning 36 later this year, Yuvraj Singh played his 300th One Day International, against Bangladesh, on Thursday. He became only the fifth Indian — and the 19th cricketer overall — to reach this mark following the iconic likes of Sachin Tendulkar (463), Rahul Dravid (340), Mohammad Azharuddin (334) and Sourav Ganguly (308).
Between yesterday and his debut during the 2000 ICC Knockouts in Nairobi, Yuvraj has established himself as a true legend of Indian cricket, with various incredible performances right from the iconoclastic innings in the 2002 England Natwest series and the 2003 World Cup fifty against Pakistan in the semi-final to a number of other match-winning knocks against the arch-rivals in the past decade.
In a lot of these innings, the Punjab-batter’s frequent partner in crime has been former Indian skipper and undoubtedly one of the most successful ones of his kind, MS Dhoni. The duo were often pictures riding the bikes awarded to one of them inside the stadium, before the duo growing apart almost simultaneously with the former Chennai Super Kings player’s ascendancy as the Team India captain.
But the question here is: Dhoni might have been at the helm of India’s most successful sides in all major tournaments, but has the wicketkeeper-batsman done as much as Yuvraj purely as a player?
Previously known for his hard-hitting style of batting, Dhoni adopted a completely contrasting approach as the years wore by. As a result, there have been accusations of being a lacklustre finisher, with the stats after the 2011 World Cup painting a sad, slow story for the Jharkhand man.
The debate about his ideal batting position also never seems to end and his away form has drawn criticism from even his staunchest of supporters. And while Yuvraj has come out of nowhere to cement his number four role for India’s ODI side — especially after the career-best 127-ball 150 against England at home earlier this year— Dhoni increasingly seems like a replaceable figure.
As Indian cricket fans, we do wish that he remains good enough to make it into the Indian side for the 2019 World Cup; but with Yuvraj’s standout antics in his second coming, history could overall be kinder to the latter.