There is nothing more inspiring and fulfilling than the sight of a beaten, broken warrior rising from the ruins and, against all expectations and failing hopes, decimating the field.
In cinema and theatre, it is called a rousing climax. In cricket, let us just call this rising-of-the-phoenix moment, Yuvraj Singh.
In Cuttack on Thursday night, Yuvraj rewound the clock and took fans to one balmy afternoon in Nairobi, when he pummelled the Australians in the quarter-final of ICC KnockOut Trophy, scoring a match-winning knock in his debut series.
Seventeen years have gone by since that day. Not one players who was on the Indian scorecard that day is around in any form of cricket. Some of his teammates are now commentators, others are coaches, and selectors. But in Cuttack, Yuvraj proved once again what Steve Waugh had said that day in Nairobi – that this young Indian batsman would turn out to be a big star.
Yuvraj has been one of the biggest stars of India's ODI and T20 cricket. In almost every Indian triumph on the world stage, Yuvraj has often played the lead role. His six sixes in the inaugural ICC World T20 and whirlwind knocks with Robin Uthappa forced rivals into submission, setting up India as prime contenders. And then, in the 2011 World Cup, his string of man-of-the-match performances brought India racing and dancing to the winner's podium.
And yet, Yuvraj seemed destined to walk into the sunset unheralded, lonely and perhaps, sad. Till he walked out to bat in Cuttack, it seemed the final of the 2014 World T20 against Sri Lanka, where he got stuck on the crease like a rabbit under floodlights, would be the final, cruel memory of this great cricketer.
But, Yuvraj, like the proverbial Terminator, is back. And how!
With the bat in Cuttack, Yuvraj reminded us that batting is what Yuvraj does. When the ball sat up, he rocked back on the right foot and pulled it like a monarch drawing an arc with his bat on his right. When it was bowled wide, he cut and punched like a magician dismissing the ball from his presence. And when it was in the V, he, like David Miller's father famously advised, put it in the tree.
When we thought he was bludgeoning the rivals, on a murderous spree with the bat, Yuvraj reminded us how he was still vulnerable, just a young man waiting for his own resurrection. A warrior fighting his final battle, trying to revive his own legend before the sun sets on his career forever.
After his first century since the 2011 World Cup, Yuvraj held his hands aloft, thumped his chest with the bat and, like the emotional man he is, and perhaps became a little misty eyed. A quick montage of visuals sped past the mind: Yuvraj kneeling on the pitch, letting out a loud roar after the quarter-final knock against Australia in 2011, Yuvraj twirling the bat in his hands, dancing, as the ball sailed into the Wankhede stands in the 2011 final.
Yuvraj's story is the stuff of legends. Imagine a young boy getting up early on cold winter mornings and knocking the ball hard for hours because his 'haanikarak' father wouldn't let him dream of anything but cricket. Imagine a young man striding out on the field in a crunch game against the mighty Aussies and leading his team to victory. Imagine those towering sixes, those hurricane knocks, the string of innings that won India dozens of tournaments, including two World Cups. Imagine then the struggle of this great warrior – a broken knee, a malignant tumour in his chest, the pain of being discarded from the team several times, being nowhere near the team for almost three years. And yet, coming back to claim what was rightfully his own, reclaiming the title of Yuvraj of batting.
Sport gets its meaning not just from what its stars achieve on the field. It gets its romance and legends from tales of triumph against odds, stories of resurrection from the dead. And legends claiming a farewell that they deserve, going out to the applause and tears of fans, not just fading away quietly.
Yuvraj has returned to write the final chapter of his heroic life. It promises to end the way it had started. Perhaps we should just call it The Beginning.
Updated Date: Jan 21, 2017 11:23:33 IST