Playing 300 ODIs is a major milestone for any cricketer. It's an exclusive club, one that not even legends like Brian Lara have been granted entry into, and which currently has only 18 members.
On Thursday, the elite club, which has the likes of Mohammad Azharuddin, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly, will have a new entrant in the form of Yuvraj Singh.
It has been a long roller coaster of a journey for the 36-year-old Yuvraj, who made his debut against Kenya in the 2000 edition of the Champions Trophy (then called the KnockOut Trophy). His ticket to the star-studded Indian team was on back of his all-round performance in that year's U-19 World Cup, for which he was adjudged the player of the tournament.
From a promising 19-year-old lad to becoming the hero of the 2011 World Cup, from successfully battling cancer to making a stunning comeback into the ODI team, here are some of the best cricketing moments of Yuvi in India colours:
A swashbuckling debut (7 October, 2000)
Yuvraj could not have asked for a better debut with the bat. At 130/4, India's top order was down and out. Then came Yuvraj, whose 80-ball 84 single-handedly helped India recover. His innings, which included 12 fours, accelerated the scoring rate. India eventually posted 265 in 50 overs — a good total in those days. The trio of Venkatesh Prasad, Zaheer Khan and Ajit Agarkar did the rest as the Aussies were bundled out for 245. No prizes for guessing who won the man of the match award!
Conquering Lords (13 July, 2002)
India had generally been poor visitors. However, 2000s saw them breaking new grounds overseas. It will not be an understatement to say that the victory in the finals of the 2002 Natwest Series was one of the defining moments in India's cricketing history.
On the back of captain Nasser Hussain's 115, England set a target of 325 — a mammoth total in an era when T20 cricket was yet to make its presence felt. However, Yuvraj and Mohammad Kaif became the unlikely heroes that day. It was their sixth-wicket partnership of 121 runs that turned the tide in India's favour after they lost five wickets in quick succession. Being the dominant partner in the partnership, Yuvraj scored a 63-ball 69 to stabilise the innings. While Kaif stole the show that day, the southpaw's innings helped India conquer the "Mecca of cricket".
Dismantling the famed Aussie bowling lineup (22 January, 2004)
In the historic 2003-04 tour of Australia, several members of the new and emerging Team India made their presence felt. One of them was Yuvi. In the Sydney ODI, the southpaw scored 139 off 122 balls, building a 213-run partnership with VVS Laxman, who was then trying to stake a claim for a permanent berth in the middle-order. While Laxman played the sheet-anchor's role, Yuvraj blasted the Glenn McGrath-less Aussie bowling lineup, before he played a Brett Lee in-swinger on to the stumps.
All-rounder Yuvi (February to April 2011)
That Yuvraj is a decent all-rounder is beyond any argument. But except for being a "partnership-breaking" part-timer, his bowling was largely restricted. However, his bowling potential came to the fore during the 2011 World Cup in the sub-continent. With 362 runs and 15 wickets, his Ian Botham-like figures came at the right time for India, as they proceeded to lift the cup after 28 years. Two performances stand out. His 5-31 against minnows Ireland helped India restrict the traditional giant-slayers to just 207. Coming on to bat, he scored a patient 50* to guide India to a comfortable victory.
A few days later, in the crucial quarter-final versus defending champions Australia, Yuvraj played the role of a senior statesman, seeing to it that the team cruises to the target of 261 with little damage. The southpaw, who came to the crease when the team was 143/3, scored 57* to end the unbeaten run of the Kangaroos across four World Cups and help India enter the semis. In this match too, Yuvi showed his skill with the white ball, scalping the key wickets of Brad Haddin and Michael Clarke.
A comeback to remember (19 January, 2017)
It was the second match of the three-match ODI series against England at Cuttack. Yuvraj had made a comeback into the team after three years but failed to impress in the first ODI. The pressure was on Yuvi and he responded in style. Along with the seemingly out-of-form MS Dhoni, who had relinquished his captaincy a while back, Yuvraj added 256 runs for the fourth wicket. One could clearly see the vintage Yuvraj as he made his way to an aggressive 150, which included a staggering 21 fours. He also surpassed his previous best of 139 and proved his critics, who were vying for his blood, wrong. Fittingly, he called this knock one of his best.
His successful battle against cancer (mediastinal seminoma) has enhanced his charisma due to the fact that not even the disease could prevent him from playing for India. His comeback into the team is the testament to his endurance and determination.
Knowing how he relishes playing in big matches, his 300th appearance against Bangladesh could possibly see more fireworks.