The 15 member Indian team was announced last week for one T20 and first three ODIs against the visiting Aussies. Their first match was a T-20 game in Rajkot on October 10, 2013, which is now over. Coming in the place of Dinesh Karthik, Yuvraj was the most notable change in the side, which returned from Caribbean, after winning the ICC Champions Trophy and tri-series against the West Indies. Other than Yuvraj, the contingent also includes; Ambati Rayudu for Murli Vijay, Jaydev Undakat for Umesh yadav and Shami Ahmed for Irfan Pathan. Selectors ignored seniors like Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh. Yuvraj Singh’s recent impressive performances against West Indies-A and in Challenger Trophy matches could have evoked the selectors’ curiosity.
Today, Yuvraj fully justified his selection by making a fantastic come back. As India faced a monumental score of 201, Yuvraj blasted his way to a 35-ball 77 to help India win by four-wickets, which also earned him the Man-of-the-Match award. Coming in after the fall of the well-set, Shikhar Dhawan, with India still needing 122 of 11.3 overs, Yuvraj was business-like from the very start. He plundered 5 sixes and 8 fours and fashioned a 102-run stand with skipper Dhoni for the fifth wicket. Rightly, Dhoni allowed Yuvraj most of the strike.
Yuvraj played his first major match as a 16-year old in Punjab’s Ranji Trophy team against Orissa in 1997-98. He didn’t make any impression in that match but playing in the under-19 team for the Cooch Behar Trophy Final of 1999 against Bihar, Yuvraj opened for Punjab and single-handedly made 358 runs after Bihar were all out for 357. He was chosen to play for India against Sri Lanka Under-19 team in February 1998. In the third ODI of that series, Yuvraj impressed with a dazzling 89 in 55 balls. In the next Ranji season, he scored 149 against Haryana and followed it up with a stellar performance in the ICC Under-19 world cup in 1900-2000. While India emerged the under-19 world cup winners, Yuvraj’s all-round performance earned him the recognition as the player-of-the-tournament. Immediately afterwards, he got the selectors’ call to represent the country in ODIs. Yuvraj’s inclusion in the ODI team brought a hither-to-unknown aggression in the side. He enthralled the fans with his breathtaking batting, deceptive left-arm bowling and electrifying fielding. He became the ODI vice-captain from late 2007 to late 2008. In the match against England in the T-20 world cup in 2007, Yuvraj blasted six sixes in one over from Stuart Broad to steer India into the final. In the match against Australia, Yuvraj hit a six off Bret Lee, which fell 119 meters away. He emerged as one of the best performing players in the tournament, which India won by beating arch-rivals Pakistan.
Yuvraj was the icon player and captain of Kings XI Punjab for the first two seasons of Indian Premier League, IPL, but lost the captaincy to Kumar Sangakara in 2010. He took two hat-ricks in IPL, the first in May 1, 2009 and another, 16 days later. In 2011, Yuvraj left Kings XI Punjab and joined the Pune Warriors as their captain.
In the 2011 Cricket world Cup, Yuvraj was named the Man-of-the-Tournament for his exemplary performance. But while the world cup was still in progress, Yuvraj had bouts of coughing and wheezing in his hotel room during nights. Though this frightened him, he didn’t allow the condition to interfere with his game.
After the world cup, Yuvraj was diagnosed as having a rare germ cell cancer. The BCCI ensured that Yuvraj got the best treatment. He went to the United States after hearing about Dr. Lawrence Einhorn, who had saved cyclist Lance Armstrong in 1996, when he suffered from testicular cancer. Yuvraj was greatly motivated by Armstrong’s fight against cancer and return to active cycling. He was similarly determined to return to playing cricket, once his treatment was over. Yuvraj also took heart from two other cricketers, Australian Simon O’Donnell and South African Dave Callaghan, both of whom overcame the dreaded disease and returned to active cricket.
Like Armstrong, Callaghan and O’Donnell, Yuvraj bravely and successfully fought cancer and returned to India. But coming back to international level so soon after such a serious ailment was not easy. He had to work hard and prove, he hadn’t lost his touch. He punished himself with a harsh 6-7 hours training to get back in shape, more mentally than physically.
Many people, including his fans had doubts about Yuvraj returning to the same level from where he had left. But Yuvraj stayed positive. He told everyone that playing cricket was far easier than fighting cancer. So if he had finished the more difficult task, the other should not be a problem.
Yuvraj made his much awaited emotional comeback in September 2012 in a T20 game against the visiting Kiwis. India lost the match by a solitary run but Yuvraj played his part to perfection.
With Yuvraj figuring in the team for the first few matches against Australia, selectors are convinced about his ability. His fans will be delighted to have the brave-heart back on the field.