In popular culture we keep hearing age is just a number. But not when it comes to cricket. Made benevolent by talents who have often exhausted themselves in pursuit of greatness- Cricket tightens its noose around cricketers when they ‘age’.
This could get ugly as fans often label cricketers ‘selfish’ when they continue persevering for betterment having caught up with age. Even if you don’t conscientiously chase personal glories, some form of statistical accumulation would be garnered. Isn’t it? No rocket science to decode that?
Brian Lara, post his 400, made many emphatic double tons against Australia and South Africa, was deemed of a ‘retire-able’ age by Michael Holding, who wasn’t exactly the sultan of batting. The likes of Mark Waugh, arguably the finest custodian of nonchalant batting that there was since Gower irked selectors during those closing stages. Cook is hearing some ongoing music about his indifferent captaincy form.
It is difficult to persevere when the odds are somehow stacked against your outlandish talent.
But thankfully, there’s no such worry about Yuvraj Singh. Easily the delight of all cricketing circles in India- whether the discussion at a corner tea stall in suburban Mumbai, or a beetle leaf joint in Delhi’s acerbic winters or who knows the BCCI’s own meeting room- they are loving a man hailed as Yuvi.
But, albeit, Yuvi is courting another dramatic problem, one which India can’t avoid
Just like you can’t deny his flamboyance, his magnificent curved stance against pace suggesting disdain from the bat is around the corner, you can’t deny the fact that as fans and supporters, we haven’t done justice to the man.
At 35, he has achieved all we think he would’ve wanted- 6 sixes in a row, a record that gives Broad goosebumps to his day, a man of the series award recognition in an ICC World Cup, a unique distinction of nearing 300 ODI appearances, a 50-run mark crossed over 50 times in ODIs and many more dazzlers.
Do you think that’s what keeps Yuvi in the hunt even today?
You must be joking! Implicit in the DNA of a cricketer who defied all odds and perhaps, some boisterous pessimistic logic that a cricketer can’t fight back from some life threatening ailment, is an eternal fighter who proved the world wrong when he participated in 2011 ICC Cricket World Cup and marched on, thereafter. He is, truth be told, fighting even today.
But Yuvi’s ailment suggests rupture caused by India
He seems to be busy making sense of all the nonsensical snubbing he’s received from the team; a BCCI side that hasn’t done justice to his magnificent talent. He is the only playing cricketer in a side that has gone from being swayed by the ‘Master Blaster’ to the defiance of the ‘Wall’ and now, post the captaincy exit of ‘Captain Cool’ amidst the heightened feverish pitch of ‘Run Machine’ Kohli. And despite being dropped, clinically and perhaps, absurdly, as many as 7 times since 2009 speaks of the dilemma the man’s courted, mostly, out of no fault of his own save his grievous condition.
No other batsman, at least since Kapil Dev’s all-round brilliance has done as much for India as the enigmatic Singh.
Let’s not even waste time on his stats
They are bold and better than most first-rate cricketers, despite presenting the viewer with a languid, sleepy-hollow of a bowling action.
As a fielder- 124 catches, as a bowler- 111 ODI wickets, a T20 average of a ridiculously meagre 17 and an ODI bowling economy that’s better than Darren Sammy, Shane Watson, B. Kumar and others. The runs? He isn’t done yet with 5000 plus runs and as for current form, he’s exhaled a cool vibe with a personal best of 150!
Why then was Yuvi made our favourite martyr in cricketing parlance?
India continues to be a country that makes love to ideologies and our own make belief. Let’s face facts! So much of our profuse love for cricket riddles around importance, given to a particular cricketer, even as others languish in side applause, so to speak. There wasn’t anything wrong in inflating our love for Tendulkar. But we did it so outlandishly that god heard news of his name being lent to a mortal who bats really well. If that wasn’t inexcusably stupid enough, we lambasted Rahul Dravid for slow batting. Reticent, he finished in 2012, as the then second-highest Test scorer.
All along this time, Yuvraj, kept propping up good numbers- taking diving catches, partnering MS in clinical run chases, remember Pakistan, 2006? Remember his 72 off 36 against India’s old foes in 2012? Remember his best all-round show of 118 and 4/28 against England in 2008? That was way before current captain Kohli knew Indore existed in cricket!
Post 2008 era of Indian cricket was mostly about Dhoni and Kohli, the epitomes of fire and ice, according to all. Fair enough. But unfairly for Yuvraj, when not in the side, he had to contend with epithets ‘Punjab dasher’, ‘Chandigarh blazer’!
How ridiculous is that?
The day India realises the man they should actually be focusing on in helping him further his career (he’s 35), by at least 2 years, and spare him the needless axe- he wasn’t around in 2009 Champions Trophy, nor in T20s vs Windies, New Zealand tour and others, would Yuvi’s wounds get healed. Even then, the real Yuvraj fan would demand an answer for him not being given his due for almost single-handedly winning India its 2011 glory! Perhaps from the sidelines of Mahi’s sweltering blow, we forgot that one man had been holding on to an end. And for long, ever since he broke out 16 years back.