THE DAUNTLESS CHAMPION: YUVRAJ SINGH
by Khaja Naseeruddin
Every year, Irani trophy match is played between the Ranji champions of that year and a rest of India XI which isformed by the players who performed well during that Ranji trophy season. Yuvraj Singh was the top scorer of the match – 204* in the second innings including 28 fours and 5 sixes.
Rest of India captain Yuvraj Singh with the Irani trophy in 2010, after ROI defeated the Ranji champions Mumbai by 361 runs
Yuvraj Singh is the first cricketer in the world to be part of the teams which won all the three big tournaments inworld cricket:
- U-19 Cricket world cup,
- T20 cricket world cup and
- ODI cricket world cup
He achieved this unique treble in 2011. Only two other cricketers in the world – Australians Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Marsh achieved this after Yuvraj Singh.
Yuvi also won the MAN OF THE TOURNAMENT awards in 2 off the 3 tournaments while both Hazlewood and Mitch Marsh have none to their names
I had a task of picking two iconic knocks of Yuvraj Singh which he played in December across his career. His 358 against Bihar in the Cooch behar trophy final in 1999, his 72 off 36 against Pakistan in 2012 were equally outstanding but I preferred two other knocks of him.
60 (25)* and 3/23 vs Sri Lanka on December 12, 2009 at Mohali
Birthdays are special. We all want them to be among the best days we ever lived. If you do exceedingly well at work on your birthday, that would be special. Yuvraj Singh did this exact thing on his 28th birthday – that too at his home ground.
The IS Bindra cricket stadium in Mohali is Yuvi’s home ground. He has a peculiar love story with Mohali. Throughout his career, he batted 12 times for India at Mohali and only twice – he scored over 34 runs in an innings. Even during the 2011 world cup, when Yuvraj was playing the best tournament of his life, he scored a golden duck in the match at Mohali.
India were playing Sri Lanka at Mohali on December 12, 2009. Sri Lanka finished at 206/7 from 20 overs – Yuvraj was the most successful Indian bowler picking 3/23.
India before this match never successfully chased a target of over 200 runs in a T20 match. Virender Sehwag as usually gave India a flying start – got a quick fire 64 off just 36 balls. He got out on the last ball of 11th over. Sri Lanka breathed for a while. Who knew they have only seen the worse and the worst for them was yet to come.
Yuvraj Singh walks into bat with 99 runs to get from 48 balls. The equation looked tough on paper but when Yuvraj Singh is on song – neither no boundary is big enough nor any target is.
Yuvi faced 25 balls and scored 60 with 5 fours and 5 sixes – an absolute carnage. India chased down 207 in 19.1 overs comfortably. This was the highest successful run chase for India in T20I cricket until December 06, 2019. It is the 2nd highest as of now.
3/23 in the first innings with the ball and 60*(25) in the second innings with the bat. You can see this pattern in Yuvi’s career – whenever he did well with the bat, he also did well with the ball and vice- versa. When Yuvraj Singh starts shining, he overshadows anyone and everyone.
He finally got an innings to remember playing at Mohali. Yuvraj also became the first and the only international cricketer in the world to win a MAN OF THE MATCH award on his birthday, playing at his home ground. Sachin Tendulkar and Rashid Khan are the two other cricketers in the world to have won a MAN OF THE MATCH award on their birthdays. However, both of them weren’t at their respective home grounds.
Picking 3 wickets and scoring 30 runs in the same T20 match is considered to be the most significant contribution by any player. Yuvi scored 2 times of 30 alongside picking 3 wickets here – probably the best all-round performance by an Indian in a T20I cricket match. December 12, 2021 marks the 12th anniversary of this iconic performance from an equally iconic Yuvi Singh.
685*(131) against England on December 15, 2008 at
Yuvraj Singh during his childhood had a dream – to win a test match for India batting alongside his hero Sachin Tendulkar. It was 2008, Yuvraj is already among the best white ball players ever played for India but he had a point to prove in test cricket. With the retirement of Sourav Ganguly, the 6th position in the Indian test cricket batting line-up was up for grabs.
This match was also emotional for India. 3 weeks before the match, Mumbai was attacked by the terrorists and over170 people lost their lives. The nation was in grief. English cricket team which was in India playing the ODI series called off the tour and flew back home.
However the government of India got the things under control very soon – tributes and thanks to the brave souls who sacrificed their lives defending ours. The English team was invited again to continue with their tour – India were playing England at Chennai in the first test match.
On December 14, 2008 (4th day of the test match) England set India a target of 387 runs to get, from 4 sessions of play. Prior to this, India successfully chased a target of 264+ runs only once, that too way back in 1976.
Everyone were expecting a draw if India played at their best but, the swashbuckling Sehwag had different plans. He smashed 83 off 68 in the last session of day-4 and suddenly an Indian win was on the cards. On December 15, 2008 (day-5) India were 224/4 when Yuvraj joined Sachin at the crease. Mumbai was the effected city in the terror attacks and who better than a Mumbai player to lead India to a win ?
Cricket being a religion in India has had the power to bring Indians out of the grief of terror attacks. But history wasn’t kind for Sachin Tendulkar at Chennai. In 1999 despite him scoring 136 runs with a back ache, India lost the match to Pakistan by 12 runs. It was surely playing on the back of his mind. Chennai also isn’t an easywicket to bat on. That too on the 5th day of a test match, it is nothing short of hell (to know more about the viciousness of the Chennai wicket, refer to the matches of first leg of IPL 2021 played there)
The greatest ever Indian cricketer Sachin had a mission to accomplish – Yuvraj Singh, the greatest disciple of Sachin, had a dream to be fulfilled. This Ram – Hanuman duo of Indian cricket starting building a partnership for India.
Both of them together added 163 runs for the unbeaten 5th wicket. India comfortably chased down 387/4 – Sachin finished on 103 and Yuvraj on 85. Sachin reckons this knock among his most memorable ones and Yuvraj too has this knock featuring among the best he played in test cricket. As soon as Sachin finished the match with a boundary, Yuvi ran to him, gave him a bear hug and lifted him up. Sachin’s mission got accomplished and Yuvi’s dream came true.
387/4 in the 4th innings was the highest target successfully ever chased by India in India. Overall 2nd to India’s 406/4 in 1976. 13 years later, in 2021 this record still remains intact.