As India pust their case in England for their third 50-over World Cup, a name that is synonymous with the tournament, failed to make the cut. And, perhaps that resulted in a decision that will disappoint some fans in the nation. While it was next to impossible to make the cut, Yuvraj Singh's hope of one last hurrah kept him going and now that it is not meant to be, the time was perhaps right to walk away on Monday.
The need for '3D' players allowed Vijay Shankar to book his ticket for England but if there is any cricketer from India who is true to the sense of it, it is the flamboyant all-rounder from Chandigarh.
Yuvraj always shined on the world stage and without him, perhaps, India's hopes of a World Cup would have been a difficult task and a far-fetched dream.
The 37-year-old burst onto the scene has a budding batsman around the turn of the century and since then he went from strength to strength before life took an ugly turn. But, being the fighter he is, giving up was not an option and as he came back, it became a story for all those, who have thought of giving up.
Yuvraj's bat did the talking for him and he made mark in the domestic circuit at the age of 15 and as time grew, the noise got louder and at 18, he was there, unleashed at the international stage and shredding the feared Australian attack to pieces in the 2000 Champions Trophy -- only his second game after a debut against Kenya earlier in the tournament. Coming in to bat at No.5 and at the fall of Rahul Dravid's wicket, the 18-year-old lanky southpaw took apart the Aussie bowling that had the likes of Glenn McGrath, Brett Lee and Jason Gillespie. Off-side or On-side...the timing and ease was a sight for the ages and a glimpse of what the future holds for India's middle-order. His 80-ball 84 was laced with 12 fours and it set up India's 20-run win the quarter-final of the tournament.
Since then, he hasn't looked back.
Yuvraj's impact slowly faded after the big impact but thanks to then captain Sourav Ganguly's backing of youth, he was persisted with and after a series of decent performances, Yuvraj finally showed why he was backed.
In a match that could be described as one of the greatest in Indian history, Yuvraj left his mark along with a good friend Mohammad Kaif. On July 13, 2002, Yuvi added class and maturity to his rawness and it paid huge dividends. Chasing 326 in the NatWest Trophy final, India lost their star-studded top-order 146 in 24 overs. With a herculean task at hand, Yuvraj joined hands with Kaif and the two put on 121-run stand for the sixth wicket and gave India a sniff at victory. He fell for 69 off 63 balls in the 42nd over but the fight he showed on the day, made him a man from a boy and at the grandest stage of them all -- Lord's. India did go on to win the match by 2 wickets and with three balls remaining and it marked the arrival of a pair that formed India's middle-order for a while to come.
WORLD CUP HEROICS
Following his heroics at Lord's, Yuvraj became a regular in the Indian squad. His ability to hit them long and score quick, allowed India a great option down the order. He hardly got big scores but the runs he got came at important stages and the impact, even harder.
And, it became even more evident at crisis situations and the biggest stages of them all. He became the first ever player to play Under-15 Under-19, T20 and ODI World Cup in 2007.
After a torrid time in West Indies, where India were knocked out in the group stages, India went to the T20 World Cup in South Africa as a young side under the leadership of Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Yuvraj along with Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir were the experienced heads in the side.
And, the southpaw came into his own in Protealand.
Yuvraj put on some inspiring performances as India lifted the first-ever World T20 and that included a six maximums of six balls against Stuart Broad and 30-ball 70 against Australia in the semi-finals that took India to the final, where they eventually defeated Pakistan in a nail-biter to lift the trophy.
Yuvraj continued his impressive show in the grandest stage of them all in 2011, when India lifted the World Cup at the Wankhede. Yuvraj again was the centre of attraction and star for India. 28 years later as India looked to lift their second-ever World Cup trophy and at home, Yuvraj stepped up and how. Battling pain and agony, the all-rounder came up with a complete performance and was announced the man-of-the-tournament for his 362 runs and 15 wickets from 9 games as India beat Sri Lanka in the final at the Wankhede to win their second 50-over World Cup.
Yuvraj's agony during the World Cup became an area of concern for the team management and the country. The nations hopes pinned on him and the left-hander didn't let them down. He played on and after making sure India won the World Cup, it was revealed that he has a cancerous tumour in his left lung and underwent chemotherapy treatment in Boston and Indianapolis after the World Cup. In March 2012, he was discharged from the hospital after completing the third and final cycle of chemotherapy and returned to India in April the same year.
His life came to a standstill and what he loved was taken away but he was a warrior and he showed if anyone can, Yuvi can. He worked on his fitness and after a good show in the domestic circuit, he returned to the Indian squad against Pakistan in December 2012.
However, after a flurry of bad shows, he was dropped from the ODI squad.
THE MILLION DOLLAR BABY
Yuvraj's stock however, didn't drop. He remained a sought after player and was a key aspect to every team in the Indian Premier League. From glamour to his all-around capability, Yuvraj was someone, everyone wanted and that fetched him 14 crore in the 2014 auction from Royal Challengers Bangalore and 16 crore the following year from Delhi Daredevils.
However, he failed to live up to them and could only manage 376 runs from 14 games in 2014 and 248 from the same number of games the following year.
And, after that, his stock fell and as things stand now, it looks bleak for him to get a team in 2020.
Yuvraj did play in T20Is sporadically in 2014 and 2016 but again a bad show in the format meant that he was not to be persisted with.
With him indirectly told that it is difficult for him to make a comeback into the side, calls for him to take retirement got louder. But, he again showed that he loves a battle and comeback and on January 15, 2017, he made a comeback into the Indian side once again. And, a innings later, came a knock that will forever be remembered. Staring down the barrel at 25/3 in the second ODI of the three-match series at Cuttak, Yuvraj joined hands with Dhoni and scripted a 256-run stand for the fourth wicket and finished one of the finest knocks in ODI cricket -- 150 off 127 balls and it was thought he is back.
But, the hope ran out soon and after a barren run and failure in the Champions Trophy in England, Yuvraj was shown the door and he never returned again.
THE MISSED OPPORTUNITIES
Test cricket and IPL.
His career has been a decorated one with over 11,778 runs from 402 international games but his inability to seal a Test spot with the talent he had will always be a point of great disappointment in a celebrated career. The southpaw only managed 1900 runs from 40 Tests and never turned out in whites after 2012 against England in Kolkata.
One more area where he would have liked to have a better outing has to be the IPL. Out of the 132 matches he played in 11 seasons, he only scored 2750 runs at an average of 24.77 but he lifted two trophies in 2016 (Sunrisers Hyderabad) and Mumbai Indians (2019).
Yuvraj's love with cricket at the international stage might have come to an end but he hopes to entertain crowds in the shortest format of the game around the globe. If Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) allows that or not, remains to be seen but he does deserve an opportunity to go out on his own terms because that's what greats do and he is one of them in the modern era.