One of my most memorable cricketing experience was to watch Yuvraj Singh live, scoring a century at MA Chidambaram Stadium, Chennai against West Indies during the 2011 World Cup.
India were in a spot of bother at 51/2 on a slow track, but put up 268 mainly due to 113 by Yuvraj and 59 by Virat. Indian spinners rose to the occasion and restricted West Indies to 188, and Yuvraj chipped in with 2 wickets as well. I was watching the match with my 11-year-old daughter and we were just sitting behind 3 VIPs, cricket administrators Arun Jaitly and Anurag Thakur and lyricist Javed Akhtar. I distinctly remember Javed Akhtar and my daughter high-fiving each other after the fall of every West Indian wicket.
One of the architects of that win, Yuvraj Singh, has announced retirement. I pay my tributes to the cricketing legend by recounting my top 5 Yuvi memories.
Stunning debut: The skipper was Sourav Ganguly, the stage was ICC knockout tournament and the year was 2000. The opponents were World Champions Australia with one of the best bowling attacks of all time in Mcgrath, Gillespie and Brett Lee. Cometh the hour, cometh the man. A 18-year-old Yuvraj scored a match winning 84 in 80 balls and announced his entry to world cricket in style. No wonder his skipper stated with pride: “Here is a young player ready for the world stage”.
Natwest final: England had put up a huge score of 325, aided by tons from Trescothick and Nasser Hussain. India started well with a 106 run opening stand in just 14.3 overs, but then the innings fell away and India were stumbling at 146/5. The stage was set for two young men, Yuvraj and Mohammad Kaif, who stitched together a 121-run stand to bring India back into the game. Yuvi’s 69 and Kaif’s 87 not out ultimately won India the match. Skipper Ganguly’s unabashed bare chested t-shirt twirling amidst mouthing obscenities will also be a lifetime memory.
Six sixes in an over: The venue was Durban, the opponents England and the stage was the inaugural 2007 T20 World Cup. India were 155/3 with 20 balls left and most Indian fans would have been happy to end up with 185 or so. Yuvraj Singh had other ideas. He hit a 12-ball 50, which even today is the fastest International T20 half-century. In one over from Stuart Broad, he hit 6,6,6,6,6 and 6 and all the hits were clean and powerful strikes, which will remain etched in our memories forever. India ended up at 218/8 and easy winners by 18 runs. India went on to win the T20 world cup as well.
World Cup 2011: Yuvraj was declared the man of the series. He was man of the match in as many as 4 matches. During the tournament, he scored one century and four 50’s. He picked up 15 wickets as well to help India’s cause. The standout performance was against Australia in the quarter-finals. Ricky Ponting’s 104 had taken Australia to 260 and when Dhoni was out, India were reeling at 187-5 in 37.3 overs, a situation ideal for an Aussie comeback in a pressure cooker atmosphere. Yuvraj and Raina had different ideas. Raina scored a 28-ball 34 and Yuvraj’s 57 took India to the semi-finals. Yuvraj and Dhoni were together as well when the winning runs were scored in the final and India lifted the world cup after 28 years.
Highest ODI score of 150: This was against England in 2017. India were struggling at 25/3. Yuvraj was no longer young, and moreover, he was a cancer survivor who had come back to play international cricket. Along with Dhoni, he massacred the English bowling. India reached 381 and Yuvraj had hit 150, his highest ever ODI score. What a triumph and what a return from the most dreaded disease known to man.
These then are my favorite Yuvi memories. Hope you like them as well.
Signing off with a rare Yuvi trivia – Yuvraj is the only player in World Cup history to score a 50 and take 5 wickets in a match. No one else has done so. Yuvraj did this in the match against Ireland in World Cup 2011.