Yuvraj Singh’s last ODI appearance will long be remembered for many other reasons but his own. It was Muralitharan’s last International game. It was a World Cup Final. It was the day India lifted the trophy after 28 long years. It was the day Sachin Tendulkar should have retired from the limited overs format, but didn’t. It was the day before the day that Dhoni ran out of luck in International Cricket. It was the last day of Kumara Sangakkara’s captaincy stint. Very few knew that it was also the day Yuvraj Singh ignored yet another telltale sign of his illness. He could be forgiven, for it was all drowned beneath the chaos that accompanied a historic day in Indian history.
It has been 14 months now, and we are yet to see India’s best ODI cricketer in the colored kit again. The big-match player to end all big-match players (Man of The Series in India’s only T20 World Cup Win in 2007, as well as the 2011 World Cup Win) has left a large vacuum in the middle order, and it is not a coincidence that his absence has lasted as long as Team India’s worst spell in their modern cricketing history.
Yuvraj Singh played his last Test match at Eden Gardens, Kolkata against the West Indies more than 8 months ago. By then, he should have been tied to a hospital bed, with drips entering most of his orifices. In fact, if he was just another one of us, he’d have even been on the recovery path by then. He shouldn’t have been allowed to play in England, and he shouldn’t have been playing in the dust bowl of sweaty Kolkata. But the thing with Champions is, they make their own limits. Between bouts of violent vomiting and bloody discharges, he even managed to score a few runs and lift his team to a rare win in the field.
The honeymoon was over long back, just a week after April 3rd, when IPL 2011 began- and Yuvraj faced the harsh reality of captaining a debut team that struggled throughout the edition. Pune’s horrible campaign couldn’t possibly have made matters better for his ailing body. But he still didn’t know it, or maybe he didn’t want to.
In a bizarre way, he owes quite a bit of his good fortune of discovering the tumour before it was too late- to Team India’s decrepit performance in England, and their complete breakdown. Many players, including him, may have begun to doubt themselves within months of being on top of the world- it’s just that Yuvraj’s doubts may have saved his own life. There was a truth he could ignore no longer, his body wasn’t the same again, and his lack of penetration on the field just wasn’t normal. Since then, all we know about this Champion athlete has been limited to newspapers and the odd clips of a bald, pale head hovering around his balcony in the United States, restless to recover, restless to live. ‘IF’ was never the question as soon as he was diagnosed with Cancer, it was always ‘WHEN’, WHEN he would recover and WHEN he would take the field again, WHEN he would become that pie-chucker again, WHEN he would wave the bat to his opponents again, because, as per great Indian folk tales and historical proof- Indian heroes are not fallible. Ever.
They can never perish. They aren’t normal human beings, like us. They’re demi-Gods, they have been put on this Earth to represent us as a nation and win trophies, not to fall ill and go through peasant chemotherapy sessions. We do that, and we look at them to inspire ourselves. It can’t possibly be the other way around, can it?
In any case, Yuvraj Singh has found his way back to life. To his country. He is still a hulk of a man, but there is a gingerness to his movement, that is constantly remnant of his mortality. When he announced a press conference on returning to India, many expected it to be an emotional, typically North-Indian session that would see tears, joy, relief, celebration and punchlines. But much to our shock, and his credit, there was none of that. ‘Thanks for the wishes’, he said, ‘…And I will be back soon.’
Nobody knows what that ‘back’ means, but recent reports of his body finally being cancer-free can only mean one thing. And that one thing was confirmed by his recent tweet:
‘Me and ishant playd a 4 over tennis bal match He hit me for 6 sixes but I won the game by hitting the 7th six of his last bal Hard luk ishi’.
If anything, there will be silent tears when he takes the field once again- whether it to be for his first real practice session, or the Buchi Babu trophy or Moin-Ud Dowla Gold Cup- or, as it was always written, for the T20 World Cup in Sri Lanka.
Now, wouldn’t that be a fairytale beginning?