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Yuvraj Singh - The Merchant of Dreams

Published on Sportscafe

I had a dream. I was playing Cricket and since it was a dream, I was invariably batting. The bowler runs in and I whack him for a 100 metres 6 over mid-wicket. The ball is lost and they bring out a new one. That felt good. The bowler runs in again, and this time, the flick of the wrist sends it soaring over square leg. 2 in 2! Ha! Bring it on, I Say! I target the off-side now; cream it over cover. 3 in 3!
I am not just feeling good anymore; I am feeling great. The bowler though is not feeling all that well. He is trembling in fear. He switches sides; fat, lot of good that will do him! It is a filthy full toss outside off, and I just help it over back ward point. 4 in 4! I am invincible, I can do anything now. I am almost bored by now. Decide to get back to leg side again. Flick it over backward square leg this time. 6! 5 in 5! I am Super Man! No one can stop me. This is inevitable now. Pure academic interest. Only one thing can happen. I launch it into the orbit! 6 off 6! 6 off 6! I am on the top of the world.
Except it wasn’t a dream; it was all too real. Except, it wasn’t any team; it was the Indian Cricket National Team. Except, it wasn’t any other match, it was the 1st ever 20-20 World Cup Final. Except, it wasn’t just any other bowler, it was Stuart Broad, who can bowl at 150 km/h. And the batsman, ladies and gentlemen, was Yuvraj Singh. Yuvraj Singh - The Merchant of Dreams.

Cricket has taught me many a geographic lesson. This was one of them. Yuvraj Singh first burst on to the scenes in Nairobi, Kenya. 18 Year old Yuvraj Singh, playing his debut tournament, carves a magnificent 84 runs, at more than run-a-ball, against the rampaging Aussies, containing the likes of McGrath, Lee and Gillespie. Not many that have seen that innings have forgotten it. As a Sports Fan, there is something particularly satisfying in spotting a special talent. And when you turn out to be right, and the player goes on to achieve bigger things, that satisfaction is all the more special.

Yuvraj Singh went on to achieve bigger things. He was instrumental in 2 World Cup triumphs for India. He was one of India’s greatest match winner. Along with Mohammed Kaif, he played a starring role in India’s greatest ODI chase, winning us the Natwest Trophy in London. He has secured his place as one of India’s greatest ever ODI player.

And yet, for all his achievements, many are left wondering, if Yuvraj Singh did indeed fulfil his enormous potential. Talent is a fickle friend. Yuvraj Singh was blessed with talent; he was cursed with an over-abundance of it. It wasn’t enough that he was a great ODI player; why ever didn’t he make a mark in tests? It wasn’t enough that he was our biggest match winner; why ever didn’t he become a successful captain? It wasn’t enough that he was a great player; why ever didn’t he become a legend? Yuvraj Singh’s talent was so palpable, so obvious, so very abundant, that great things were predicted for him. At the age of 19, he was tipped to be a future Indian Captain by the pundits. He was to be India’s answer to Gary Sobers. He was to be the left handed successor to Tendulkar. If the expectations are so astronomically high, unless your name happens to be Sachin Tendulkar, you invariably fall short. Yuvraj Singh was no exception.

Yograj Singh played 1 solitary test match for India and all of 6 ODI’s. He scored a total of 6 runs in Tests and 1 in ODI’s; picked up 1 wicket in Tests and 4 in ODI’s. He never played for India again. And as it so often happens; what he couldn’t achieve, he wanted his son to achieve. He would live his dreams through the exploits of his son. Little wonder then that Yuvraj Singh turned out to be a merchant of dreams. Little wonder then, that Yuvraj Singh suffered from the burden of expectation all his life.

In a team of super stars, Yuvraj Singh was the most human of all. His flaws were evident, his struggles obvious, and his vulnerability was laid out for all to see. In many ways, Yuvraj Singh was the antithesis of MS Dhoni. MS Dhoni made his debut 4 years after Yuvraj Singh. Many would argue that he had of Yuvraj Singh’s natural talent. Yet he would go on to become India’s most successful ODI and Test Captain and arguably the biggest name in World Cricket of his times. While MS Dhoni hid his emotions to the world behind an exterior of cool, Yuvraj wore his on his sleeve. 
And so it is easy to take his achievements for granted and focus on his shortcomings and limitations. Make no mistake, Yuvraj Singh’s career is a glorious one. His contribution to Cricket goes beyond numbers and trophies. Yuvraj Singh when in full flow was a sight to behold. As you watch his bat describe a graceful 360o arc and effortlessly send the ball soaring into the orbit, it is hard not to experience pure joy. As he faced off Stuart Broad in that immortal over, the bat seemed to a mere instrument for his imagination, the bowler almost his ally, complicit in the making of something beautiful. For all his talent, Yuvraj Singh never failed to give anything less than 100%. He wore his emotions on his sleeve and took visible pride in playing for the country. A world with Yuvraj Singh was better than a world without Yuvraj Singh.

The 2011 World Cup was Yuvraj Singh’s destiny. He didn’t know it then, but Yuvraj was battling cancer through the tournament. Poor form had dogged him for a while then before the tournament had started. For maybe once in his life, the expectations on him were not all that great. But Yuvraj Singh finally decided to embrace his destiny. He scored runs, picked up wickets and took great catches. As he swept the floor with his bat, in pure naked display of raw emotion, it was hard not to get goose-bumps. He gifted his hero a World Cup and in doing so gifted the nation a memory.

He hasn’t been the same since that World Cup. The magic seems to have deserted him. He continues to struggle to find a place in the team. But Yuvraj Singh, even, if he is not pick up his bat again, will remain a hero, a winner. If Yuvraj Singh asks, as Lara had famously done after his retirement, ‘Have I entertained you?’, the answer would be a resounding ‘Yes!’. Yuvraj Singh made Cricket sexy. Yuvraj Singh made kids dream, Yuvraj Singh turned adults into kids for a brief while. Yuvraj Singh is the merchant of dreams, peddler of joy and the agent of hope. Happy Birthday Yuvraj Singh!   

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