Eight years after he prevented cancer from dictating his life choices, a tearful Yuvraj Singh on Monday brought the curtains down on a roller-coaster international career, the pinnacle of which was his exploits in India’s 2011 World Cup triumph.
Tall, willowy and ethereal, his unlimited talent and charisma made him a limited overs legend, but he will walk into the sunset feeling he has not done enough in Tests. The Punjabi southpaw, though, tried repeatedly to turn back time before calling it quits.
“After 25 years, in and around 22 yards, and after almost 17 years of international cricket on and off, I have decided to move on. Cricket has given me everything and is the reason why I stand here today,” the 37-year-old said addressing the media in the extravagant interiors of a star hotel that quite resembled his flamboyant batting.
“I was extremely lucky to play 400 games for India. I could have never imagined it when I first started playing cricket,” he added.
The explosive batter said he now wants to “enjoy life” and pursue a freelance career in T20 leagues internationally, pending BCCI permission. But he will no longer be seen in the Indian Premier League.
Yuvraj played 40 Tests, 304 ODIs and 58 T20Is for India. He put together 1900 runs in the longest format, and 8701 in the one-dayers, the format in which he enjoyed the most success. His one-day runs tally places him 22nd in the overall list and seventh among Indians.
A useful left-arm spinner, Yuvraj picked up 111 ODI wickets at an average of 36.55.
“It was a love-hate relationship with this game. I can’t explain what it really means to me. This game taught me how to fight, how to fall, to dust myself off and get up again and move forward,” he said.
“I have failed more times than I have succeeded, but I never gave up, and will never give up, till my last breath, and that’s what cricket has taught me. I gave my blood and sweat to the game once I got on to it, especially when it came to representing my country,” he added.
The attacking left-hander listed the the 2011 World Cup triumph, being Man of the Tournament in the showpiece, getting six sixes in an over against England in the inaugural 2007 World T20 and his first Test hundred, against Pakistan in Lahore in 2004, as the most special moments of his international career that twisted this way and that through 17 years.
The battle with cancer soon after the 2011 World Cup triumph was perhaps the biggest challenge that he encountered. “I was not going to let that disease defeat me,” he said.
However, his cricketing form had been on the wane for a while. Yuvraj last played for India in a T20I against England in 2017. His last Test appearance was back in 2012.
He turned up for Mumbai Indians in this year’s IPL but didn’t get many chances. His exploits at the World T20 in South Africa have remained untouched till date.
Yuvraj’s willow-wielding ways gave nightmares to almost every bowler through the tournament.
Clobbering six sixes in the penultimate over bowled by Stuart Broad in Kingsmead was a moment not many cricket fans will forget. That performance against England took Yuvraj on top of the pile of fastest fifties in a T20I match, scoring 50 in just 12 balls, a record that has stood the test of time.
As time passed, Yuvraj became an established middle-order linchpin for the Indian team and a man with a golden arm too.
A testimony of his accomplished all-around abilities was the 2011 50-over World Cup where Yuvraj became the first all-rounder to score 300-plus runs and take 15 wickets in a single World Cup.
The feat included four MoM awards and Man-Of-The-Tournament for the 362 runs and 15 wickets.
“Winning the 2011 World Cup, being a man of the series, four MoM awards was all like a dream, which was followed with a harsh reality of getting diagnosed with cancer,” reminisced Yuvraj.
“All this happened so quickly and that too when I was at the peak of my career. It was like touching the sky and then falling down at light speed and hitting the ground hard. All this happened so quickly,” he said.
“I can’t possibly explain the support of my family and friends who stood by me, like my pillars of strength and courage,” added an emotional Yuvraj.
He rated Sourav Ganguly, under whom he flourished, and Mahendra Singh Dhoni as his favourite captains and picked Sri Lankan spin wizard Muttiah Muralitharan and Australian pace great Glenn McGrath as the toughest bowlers he faced in his career.
Yuvraj, a fighter to the core even off the field, battled all odds to return to cricket after being successfully cured of a rare germ cell tumour in the United States.
“This was probably the most difficult time in my cricket career, then the 2014 T20 World Cup final against Sri Lanka when I laboured to 11 off 21 balls. It was so shattering that I felt my career was all but over, everyone wrote me off too. But I never stopped believing in myself,” remarked Yuvraj.
“I felt most pressurised when I was making a comeback after having recovered from cancer because that was the time when everyone thought that I may not be the same player again and I had to prove them wrong,” he said.