Swashbuckling. If there was one word that would capture the true essence of Yuvraj Singh’s cricketing career, it is this.
His gritty innings of 69 in the final of the 2002 Natwest Series announced his arrival on the international stage. The memory of the six sixes that he smashed off Stuart Broad’s single over in the ICC Twenty20 Championship will remain embedded in the hearts and minds of Indian cricket fans forever. His heroics during the 2011 Cricket World Cup etched his name in the pantheon of India’s greatest cricketing souls.
However, Yuvraj’s indelible legacy goes beyond numbers. It even goes beyond the game of cricket itself.
More than a stat-merchant
Unlike some of his peers, Yuvraj’s career isn’t synonymous with record-breaking numbers. Not that his numbers aren’t impressive enough to warrant praise.
The all-rounder eventually ended up playing 40 Tests, 304 ODIs and 58 T20Is for the Indian cricket team. In ODIs, Yuvraj amassed 8701 runs at an average of 38 that included 14 hundreds and 52 fifties.
And don’t forget his bowling exploits. The slow, left-arm orthodox spinner picked up 111 ODI wickets, including 15 in the 2011 Cricket World Cup.
Yuvraj, however, lived his life in the moment. It is these moments that truly define his cricketing legacy.
As a batsman, there was perhaps no one more aesthetically pleasing on the eye than Yuvraj. His dreamy cover drives, extravagant backlift and effortless flicks over deep mid-wicket were a sight to behold for cricket aficionados all over the world.
But there was more to Yuvraj. So much more.
His stomach for a fight on the cricket field was well known. Led by Sourav Ganguly, Yuvraj was part of a new generation of Indian cricketers who played with fearlessness. His tenacity and endurance, on and off the cricket field, has inspired many generations of future Indian cricketers.
Ever since Yuvraj announced his retirement, his close colleagues and on-field foes have been showering him with praise. While the great Sachin Tendulkar called him a “true champ”, Ganguly branded him as an “out-and-out match winner”. Even the Rawalpindi Express Shoaib Akhtar chipped in, calling Yuvraj a “rockstar” in a special tribute video he posted on YouTube.
As a professional and as a person, Yuvraj was top-drawer.
Battle with cancer
Less than a month after the 2011 World Cup, Yuvraj was diagnosed with a stage-1 cancerous tumor in his left lung. He pulled out from the Indian squad and went to the US to undergo intensive chemotherapy treatment.
In the blink of an eye, his whole world had come crashing down around him.
The Punjabi southpaw, however, battled on and after spending more than a year in the US for treatment, Yuvraj’s cancer finally started showing signs of remission. A few months later, the Indian selectors picked him to be a part of the Indian squad for the 2012 ICC World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka.
The comeback was complete. The battle was won.
Later that year, Yuvraj set up his own cancer charity called YouWeCan, with the “endeavour to combat cancer by spreading awareness about the disease and fighting the stigma attached to it.”
In March, 2013, Yuvraj released his autobiography titled, The Test of My Life: From Cricket to Cancer and Back.
In an interview conducted after his recovery, Yuvraj exclaimed that cyclist Lance Armstrong was his real-life inspiration. “He (Lance Armstrong) was definitely inspiring because he battled a cancer which was even worse than mine. He showed the dedication and commitment to come back and do well in his sport.”
On June 10, when Yuvraj decided it was time to hang up his boots, he said he would now dedicate his life “to provide service and help for cancer affected people.”
After winning his own battle with cancer, Yuvraj became an inspiration to thousands of Indians who suffer from this deadly disease. He is their real-life hero.
From spinning his way out of Muttiah Muralitharan’s web of magic, to emerging unscathed from a dark cancerous pit, Yuvraj has done it all. And every Indian cricket fan shall forever be grateful to him for that.
Rakshit Chopra is the founder of the fantasy sports platform The Choralist.