Yuvraj Singh was born on 12th December 1981 and represented India in all 3 formats in cricket during an international career that spanned nearly 17 years. He played in 40 Tests and scored 1900 runs at an average of 33.92 with 3 centuries and 11 fifties. That record may seem underwhelming, but Yuvraj was never able to cement his place in Tests, forever in and out of the side when it came to red ball cricket. However, in ODIs, Yuvraj was an all-time great who scored 8701 runs from 304 matches, at a batting average of 36.55 with 14 centuries and 52 fifties. Yuvraj also bowled useful left-arm orthodox spin, taking 111 wickets at a bowling average of 38.68 and an economy rate of 5.1 in ODIs. His economy rate was exceptional when you consider that he was a part-time bowler and the increasingly high scoring rates of his era. In addition to his exhilarating batting and useful bowling, Yuvraj was, in his heyday, a brilliant fielder anywhere in the field, particularly at backward point. He took 94 catches and affected many run-outs. In short, he was a brilliant 3-dimensional cricketer when on song.
There have been a total of 31 batsmen who have scored a minimum of 8000 runs in ODIs and Yuvraj has the 8th best strike rate amongst them. Along with Mahendra Singh Dhoni, he has scored the joint most number of centuries at number 5 and below in ODIs, notching up 7 to his name. He is also one of just 9 cricketers to have taken 100 wickets in ODIs, in addition to scoring 8000 Test runs. In ODI cricket, batsmen who bat in the middle to lower order are often in a Catch-22 situation. They have to either weather the storm in case of a top order collapse or they have to consolidate a great start provided by the top order and drive home the advantage. Moreover, they often do not have the luxury of facing a lot of balls in which to shape the outcome of the match. Yuvraj scored 4870 runs batting at number 5 and below, at a batting average of 38.34 and a batting strike rate of 86.73. That’s the 5th highest in the all-time list at number 5 and he did it at a very good batting average while also scoring the runs a fair clip. Whichever parameter you use to analyse Yuvraj’s ODI career, there is no doubting the fact that he was a great ODI batsman.
Yuvraj played in 58 T20Is and scored 1177 runs at a batting average of 28.02 and a batting strike rate of 136.38 with 74 sixes. In spite of having a relatively short T20I career, he is one of just 10 players to score in excess of 1000 runs, at a batting strike rate in excess of 135 and hit more than 70 sixes in T20Is.
Highlights of Yuvraj’s career
In the summer of 2002, India were playing England in the final of the Natwest Tri-series and were chasing England’s total of 325/5 off their 50 overs. In reply, India were reeling at 146/5 and looked to be out of the contest. However, Yuvraj and Mohammad Kaif put on a partnership of 121 runs for the 6th wicket in just 17.4 overs to revive India’s hopes. Yuvraj scored 69 off just 63 balls with 9 fours and a six as India won by 2 wickets. This victory is considered one of India’s most famous victories in their ODI history.
In 2007, the ICC decided to host the first edition of the WT20 in South Africa. Initially, India was reluctant to play in the tournament and even when they did, their top players Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid chose to skip the tournament. Therefore, the onus was on experienced players like Dhoni and Yuvraj to lead from the front and guide the more inexperienced players. India made it past the initial stages of the tournament and met England in a virtual knock-out clash. Until that stage in the tournament, Yuvraj had not done much, but on that day, he came to the party, and how! Yuvi scored 58 off just 16 balls, with 3 fours and 7 sixes. He propelled India to 218 for 4 off their 20 overs. During the course of this innings, he struck English fast bowler Stuart Broad for 6 consecutive sixes in an over. This is the first and only time a batsman struck 6 sixes in one over in an international match featuring 2 Test playing nations, and Yuvraj’s innings provided India the much-needed fillip to their campaign. They won by 18 runs and then defeated South Africa by 37 runs to enter the semi-finals. In the semis against Australia, India were struggling at 41/2 off 8 overs, when Yuvraj came in and smashed 70 off just 30 balls. India won that match by 15 runs. They beat Pakistan in the final by 5 runs to win the inaugural T20 World Cup. Yuvraj was not the Man of the series but had played vital knocks at crucial stages to help India’s cause.
In the 2011 ODI World Cup, in which India were the co-hosts, Yuvraj put on a brilliant all-round show in spite of suffering physically from an undiagnosed ailment. India were playing with just 4 bowlers in the team and their skipper, MS Dhoni, relied on Yuvraj to bowl his full quota of 10 overs so that they could play 7 batsmen. Once again, Yuvraj came to the party, scoring 362 runs at a batting average of 90.5 in 9 matches and took 15 wickets at a bowling average of 25.13, to register one of the greatest all-round performances in the history of the World Cup. In the 11 editions of the World Cup, this is the only instance of a player scoring in excess of 300 runs and taking a minimum of 15 wickets, in a single edition. In a group match against West Indies, just prior to the quarter-finals, Yuvraj scored a blistering 113 off 123 balls to help India post a competitive total of 268. With the ball, he took 2 wickets in 4 overs, conceding just 18 runs as India went into the quarter-finals on a high winning by 80 runs. In the quarter-finals against Australia, he took 2 wickets conceding just 44 runs in his 10 overs. This helped India restrict Australia to 260 from their 50 overs. In reply, India were in a bit of strife at 187 for 5 when Yuvraj played a pivotal 57 off 65 balls as India chased down the target. For his all-round efforts, Yuvraj was adjudged the Player of the Series. Even today, his name is indelibly linked to India’s victories in the 2007 WT20 and the 2011 World Cup.
Yuvraj has a rather mixed IPL career that has not touched the glorious heights he reached at the international level. He has played for as many as 6 teams in the IPL, and he lifted the Trophy with the SunRisers Hyderabad in the 2016 edition. This year, he was a member of the Mumbai Indians squad that won the IPL title. The 6 teams that he has represented are Delhi Daredevils, Kings XI Punjab, Pune Warriors, Royal Challengers Bangalore, SunRisers Hyderabad and Mumbai Indians. In the IPL, Yuvraj has played in 132 matches and has scored 2750 runs at an average of 24.77 and a strike rate of 129.71. He is 20th in the list of all-time top run scorers in the IPL. In the past few seasons, he has struggled to merit a place in the playing XI of the squads he was a part of. In 2019, Yuvraj was picked in the auction by the Mumbai Indians and began the campaign well but soon faded away, playing in 4 matches and scoring just 98 runs. He was dropped thereafter, and, with age catching up, might struggle to consistently feature in the playing XI of any of the IPL teams in the future.
Battle against cancer
As mentioned earlier, Yuvraj played a crucial role in India’s ODI World Cup victory in 2011. What made his feats even more commendable was the fact that he did it while suffering from undiagnosed lung cancer. His issues began with breathing difficulties, nausea and bouts of vomiting blood before and during India’s successful run through the 2011 World Cup, which he finished as the player of the tournament. After the World Cup, he was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor stage-1 in his left lung and underwent chemotherapy treatment at the Cancer Research Institute in Boston, United States, as well as the Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center in Indianapolis where he was cared for by famed oncologist Dr. Lawrence Einhorn. His mother Shabnam Singh was with him during his diagnosis in the USA. In March 2012, he was discharged from the hospital after completing the third and final cycle of chemotherapy and returned to India in April.
Achievements and honours
Yuvraj holds the record for scoring the fastest T20 fifty, which he scored in 12 balls against England in the 2007 ICC World Twenty20.
He was Man of the Tournament in the ICC Cricket World Cup in 2011.
He was awarded with the Arjuna Award (India’s second highest Sporting Award) in 2012 by the President of India.
In 2014, he was awarded with the Padma Shri Award.
In February 2014, he was honored with the FICCI Most Inspiring Sportsperson of the Year Award.
In August 2018, Power Brands awarded Yuvraj Singh the Bharatiya Manavata Vikas Puraskar for being an impact player on the field, as well as off it for demonstrating humility in greatness and leading the charge in the battle against cancer, reinforcing the belief that together, YUWECAN.
Charity and Commercial interests
Yuvraj was signed by Microsoft to be a brand ambassador for the Xbox 360 video game console when it was launched in India in 2006. He appeared in advertisements for the console alongside Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar. Codemasters’ cricket video game Brian Lara International Cricket 2007 was released with his endorsement in India, titled “Yuvraj Singh International Cricket 2007”. The Bollywood animated film Jumbo features Yuvraj’s voice, therefore starting his career in Bollywood. The upcoming animated full-length feature film Captain India features Yuvraj Singh as the main protagonist.
Yuvraj has also been involved in sports-based e-commerce; he is a brand ambassador of sports365.in, an online store focused on selling sports goods and fitness equipment. Yuvraj is also the brand ambassador for the sports brand Puma. He was appointed as the brand ambassador of Ulysse Nardin watches in 2013.
Yuvraj's own charity, YouWeCan has helped hundreds of cancer patients. In April 2015, he announced the intention to invest INR 40–50 crores in online startups, expanding the YouWeCan proposition by setting up YouWeCan Ventures. Yuvraj’s autobiography, The Test of my Life: From Cricket to Cancer and Back was released recently.
Yuvraj had previously stated his intention to play on at least till the 2019 World Cup, but failed to make India’s squad for the tournament. There were reports of him wanting to announce his international retirement so that he could get an NOC from the BCCI, and freelance in various T20 leagues abroad. However, he hasn’t officially announced his retirement from international cricket, so, as of now, these reports are mere conjecture.
To conclude, Yuvraj Singh may not have been a great Test batsman, but in ODIs and T20Is, he was an indisputable all-time great. In addition to being a great player, he was a great warrior - a person who had the courage and will power to overcome adversity and bounce back in life. He gave his heart and soul for the country and will always be looked at as one of India’s favourite cricketing sons. One hopes that his future life, after he calls it quits from cricket, will be as fruitful, and without the struggles that he underwent throughout his tumultuous cricketing career. He deserves it for his yeoman service to Indian cricket.
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