Yuvraj Singh: The warrior-artist who painted the cricketing world with a spear

  • Vaibhav Shah
  • June 13th, 2019
  • 23:16:10 IST

The mood in the plush hotel rooftop overlooking the famous Queen's Necklace in Mumbai keeps changing throughout an hour-long address where one of India's most radiant cricketers, Yuvraj Singh, decides to 'move on' from the rigours of competitive sport.

Proceedings kick off with a 15-minute video package encapsulating Yuvraj's "roller coaster ride", which revisits the childhood scars of a boy wanting to skate but is thrust into the cricketing world — to live his father's unfulfilled aspirations — through his on-field successes and all the way to his victory over the most dangerous opponent: Cancer.

The clipping is a sincere throwback to Yuvraj's indefatigable ability of triumphing during adversity – a quality that forms the bedrock of his legend.

Yuvraj chaffs at the expense of his mother's innocence before he stutters, grunts and make those longer-than-usual pauses as he rambles in his retirement address in front of his friends, family and fraternity from the media.

Typical of Yuvraj, he is courteous enough to acknowledge the contributions of his parents, gurus and friends in his journey and at the same time cool enough to do it in his shorts on his final day as a professional cricketer.

He celebrates his career. He expresses his regret as an underachieving Test cricketer and is candid enough to speak about his 'love-hate relationship' with cricket.

Yuvraj Singh drills one through the covers. Reuters

Yuvraj Singh drills one through the covers. Reuters

Yuvraj's cricketing career, along with his life, displayed several hues that painted Indian cricket with various shades throughout the two decades of the 21st century.

The match-fixing scandal at the turn of the century reduced a diehard cricket devotee to a crude critic as Indian cricket crumbled into a chasm. It took a new captain with his newfangled crew to rebuild trust with the faithful.

There was no better balm than the sweet taste of victory.

With the sheer exuberance of the youth, the 18-year-old Yuvraj dazzled in Nairobi Gym with audacious strokeplay that brought World Champions Australia down to their knees and exposed that that Australian side was vulnerable too.

Two years on at Lord's during the NatWest tri-series final, Yuvraj with his foremost ally, Mohammad Kaif, brushed aside inevitability and embellished history. In what was arguably India's finest summers in England in many seasons, a new colour of hope was splattered across the millennial generation tinting over the affliction occurred in the late 90s.

His fluent bat swing, natural silken touch and profound timing made him look invincible at times. Despite all his artistry, he could have easily qualified as a great swordsman, who could hoick, scythe and rip the ball to shreds at will. It seemed as if, besides spending his younger days in Jalandhar honing his cover-drives, he also did a course with Hattori Hanzo in Japan.

The artist metamorphosed into an assassin from a Tarantino flick when he plundered Stuart Broad for six 6s in Durban. The sight was so pure that it takes you to The House of Blue Leaves where Black Mamba meets Cotton Mouth in the pristine snowy garden for their final showdown.

Alright, Broad was far from an O-Ren-Ishii, but so precise was Yuvraj's ball-striking that he carried out the most gruesome of murders with the delicate incisions of a surgeon.

For all the colours that he sprayed in limited-overs cricket, it was in the whites that he left a lot to desire for. He too regrets not having achieved a lot of success in the longer format but also points out to the abundance of talent present in the Indian squad during his heyday that kept him out of the side.

Apart from his natural ability to time the ball, Yuvraj had a gifted knack for the big occasion.

From a teenage stud to self-assured superstar, the artist, saved his masterpiece for the best, unveiling it at the Cricketing equivalent of Sotheby's auction – the World Cup, where He took his favourite resplendent Team India blue and smeared it across the cricketing world.

Yuvi had transformed from an artist to an assassin to now a warrior, who defied death to fight for 'God'.

Harbhajan Singh(L), Sachin Tendulkar (C) and Yuvraj Singh enjoy the post shenanigans after winning the World Cup in 2011. Art work Rajan Gailwad

Harbhajan Singh(L), Sachin Tendulkar (C) and Yuvraj Singh enjoy the post shenanigans after winning the World Cup in 2011. Artwork Rajan Gaikwad

Yuvraj would effortlessly dive and pluck screamers at point and would do the same with equal panache while fielding at short fine leg. He could caress an overpitched delivery through covers for a lovely drive and could even sock the same delivery like a piledriver into the sightscreen.

His father wanted his offspring to be a mix of Vivian Richards and Gary Sobers – a mythical cricketer that even Marvel would find difficult to replicate. Yuvraj, for once, did his best to borrow some of Richards' swagger and from time to time put his all-round skills to use in an attempt to trail on Sobers' path. (PS - They both did hit six 6s)

For the most part of his career, the left-hander batted between number four and six, mutating from an accumulator to an aggressor. He lifted the team's spirit and the country's fielding standards ever since his debut and could make best of the batsmen look silly with his bowling on a given day – all a testament to his adaptability, which enabled him to carve out an exclusive niche for himself.

"I gave my blood and sweat to the game, once I got into it, especially when it came to representing my country," Yuvraj reflects on his playing days following the video.

"As I go back in times today, my life has been like a roller coaster ride. Winning the 2011 World Cup, being man of the series, winning four Man of the Match awards was all like a dream, which was followed by a harsh reality — getting diagnosed with cancer. It was like touching the sky and then falling down at light speed and hitting the ground hard."

It was ironic for a carefree, high-on-life Yuvraj to be staring death in the face. However cliched it may sound, for him to come back from near oblivion to competitive cricket was a self-tribute to his true spirit of never giving up.

Yuvraj never gave up on time, but in cricket, his timing started to give up on him. From the dynamics in Durban to despair in Dhaka, where he failed to get bat to ball, he found himself in dire straits and termed it the 'worst day' of his career.

"Probably the worst day in my cricket career was the 2014 T20 World Cup final against Sri Lanka when I scored 11 off 21 balls. It was so shattering that I felt my career was over and I was written off by everyone to an extent that it made me feel at times that it's all over."

Blessed with such intrinsic creative ability, like any artist, he was eccentric and perhaps this is what the researches call the 'eccentricity effect'.

For all that Yuvraj had learned, he didn't know how to give up.

"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 taught me"

"I was a little confused after the 2014 WT20 finals as to which way my career was going. I even started getting fewer opportunities," he says while fronting to the press for the first time after his retirement.

The artist in him thought it was all over but the warrior in him readied for another battle. The artist relented. The warrior won as Yuvraj rolled back the clock, in what would be perhaps remembered as his last salvo, smashing his highest ODI score in early 2017, perhaps even assuming that there is probably another battle left in him.

In career-spanning almost across two decades, Yuvraj's legend will belong to a special category, which won't be measured merely by the number of runs, wickets or catches that he took but, perhaps fittingly, by the time at which they arrived.

In the regal surroundings of the Queen's necklace, the Prince stands on the top of the world all by himself, after making peace with both the artist and the warrior as he draws curtains on his career.

For all the latest news, opinions and analysis from ICC Cricket World Cup 2019, click here

Updated Date: June 13, 2019 23:16:10 IST

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