JUNE 10, 2019
“A very difficult and at the same time a very beautiful moment for me,” Yuvraj said. “After 25 years, in and around 22 yards, and after almost 17 years of international cricket on and off, I have decided to move on.
“I am extremely lucky to play 400-plus games for India. I would never have imagined this when I started my career as a cricketer. It was a love-hate relationship with the sport, in retrospect. I don’t think I hated the game, because the love I have for it today, which will remain a constant till the end of [my] life. I can’t really express in words what is that feeling.
“This game taught me how to fight, how to fall, to dust myself off and get up again and move forward. 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 has taught me. I gave my blood and sweat to the game once I got on to it, especially when it came to representing my country.”
The greatest triumph for Yuvraj, now 37, was undoubtedly the 2011 World Cup, when he hit four half-centuries and a century, while also picking up 15 wickets – including a five-for against Ireland – on his way to the Man of the Tournament award as India won the trophy for only the second time.
That, however, was followed by a terrible low, as Yuvraj was diagnosed with mediastinal seminoma, a germ-cell tumour located between his two lungs. The diagnosis was confirmed in February 2012, and he stayed out of the game till December that year, when he made a comeback following treatment. The returns following that were a mixed bag, though, and he last turned out in national colours in June 2017 in an ODI during India’s tour of the West Indies.
“As I go back in time today, my life has been like a roller-coaster ride,” Yuvraj said. “Winning the 2011 World Cup, being Man of the Series, 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. All this happened so quickly, and that too when I was [at] the peak of my career. But in that moment, everyone to whom I mattered, stood together for me – my fans, my friends, my family.
“Probably the worst day in my 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 made me feel at times that it was all over. Then I took a bit of time [off] and I realized why I play cricket; it’s because I love the game. So I went back to basics and scored heavily in domestic cricket. A year and a half later, I made my comeback in T20Is for India, where I hit a six and a four in the last over against Australia in Sydney, and suddenly all the belief came right back.
“I finally made my comeback in one-day cricket after three years in Cuttack on 19th January against England in 2017. I recorded my highest one-day score of 150 in 127 balls when everybody said it was impossible. Trust me, I have never stopped believing in myself. No matter what the world said, believe in yourself because if you put your heart and soul into it, you can achieve the impossible.
Yuvraj, who has continued to be a part of the Indian Premier League and, occasionally, for Punjab in the domestic circuit, ended his career with an outstanding ODI record of 8701 runs – 22nd in the overall list, and seventh among Indians – at an average of 36.55 and 111 wickets. In his sporadic Test appearances, he scored three centuries and 11 half-centuries in aggregating 1900 runs, and in T20Is – where he headlined India’s 2007 title-winning effort with a blast of six sixes in a Stuart Broad over – he ended with 1177 runs and 28 wickets.
- January 2000: Yuvraj’s talent is spotted fairly early and he makes a mark in India’s Under-19 World Cup triumph in Sri Lanka in 2000. He makes 203 runs at 33.83 and also impresses with his left-arm spin. Less than a year later, he is a part of the national team.
- October 2000: Yuvraj hits the headlines in just his second ODI when the Indian team is emerging out of the match-fixing crisis under the leadership of Sourav Ganguly. Against Australia in the quarter-finalof the ICC Knockout Tournament, Yuvraj blazes to 84 off 80 balls in a memorable win.
- July 2002: In one of India’s finest moments in ODI cricket, Yuvraj, who made 69, and Mohammad Kaif combine to hand their team a thrilling two-wicket win while chasing 325 in the NatWest Series final against England at Lord’s. It also seals Yuvraj’s place in the ODI team for good.
- September 2007: In the inaugural World Twenty20, Yuvraj enters the record books, smashing Stuart Broad for six sixes in an over. He followed up with a match-winning 70 against Australia in the semi-finalsthat put India on the road to a historic title win.
- Feb 19 – Apr 2, 2011: A dream World Cup for Yuvraj, as he scores 362 runs – including one centuries and four fifties – takes 15 wickets, wins four Man-of-the-Match awards, and is also Player of the Tournament. In the process, he becomes the first allrounder to score 300-plus runs and take 15 wickets in a single World Cup.