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Yuvraj Singh Enters 300 Matches Club: Indian Cricket's 'Prince' Charming Forever

Arnab Sen |Cricketnext | Updated: June 15, 2017, 1:00 PM IST
Yuvraj Singh Enters 300 Matches Club: Indian Cricket's 'Prince' Charming Forever

(Getty Images)

Birmingham: The year 2000 was a year of metamorphosis for Indian cricket. On the brink of being relegated from its venerated position of a 'religion' after the damaging match-fixing episode, cricket in India needed a strong leader to guide it out of the storm. That leadership was provided by Sourav Ganguly.

And while 'Dada' was elevated to the position of the 'King', Indian cricket needed a new 'prince'. And the choice became quite clear when a young southpaw announced himself on the international stage at the Gymkhana Club Ground in Nairobi. Yuvraj Singh had made a non-descript debut against Kenya, where he bowled four overs without taking a wicket and didn't get a chance to bat.

Yuvraj's reputation as a big and clean hitter of the ball had preceded him due to his exploits for the triumphant U-19 World Cup winning team he was a part of earlier that year. He had finished the tournament as the 'Player of the series'.

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The then 18-year old's chance came in the crucial quarter-final against Australia in the ICC Knock-out Tournament, the predecessor of ICC Champions Trophy, when the team was in a spot of bother against the best pace bowling line-up, comprising of Glenn McGrath, Jason Gillespie and Brett Lee, in the world.

But Yuvraj was not one to be intimidated by reputation of the opponent, a trait which has characterised his international career. He blasted his way to an 80-ball knock of 84, which left the Australians wondering what had just struck them.

Almost 17 years later, Yuvraj, now a 35-year old veteran of 299 one-day internationals is on the cusp of becoming only the fifth Indian cricketer to have played 300 ODIs. Yuvraj will follow the likes of Mohammed Azharuddin, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid to the landmark when he takes to the field against Bangladesh in the semi-final of the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy and stays as passionate about contributing to India's success as he was in his first match.

"It is a big achievement for me to complete 300 games for India. When I started playing I was just happy to play for the country. Been a long journey and there have been a few ups and downs. Not looking to do anything extraordinary, just contribute to the team's cause. The team is bigger than my landmark," Yuvraj said on the sidelines of Team India's practice session ahead of the semi-final.

Over the these 17 years Yuvraj has played several match-winning and match-changing knocks for India, the last of those came in the opener of this tournament, when his cameo against Pakistan shifted the momentum in India's favour. When asked about his memorable ODI knocks, he chose the unbeaten 57 against Australia in the 2011 World Cup quarter-final in Ahmedabad.

"Definitely the knock against Australia in the 2011 World Cup quarter-final is the most memorable knock. My knock against Australia in Nairobi is also up on the list and yes the innings in the final of the Natwest Trophy against England is also very special to me."

Yuvraj Singh is like a yoyo, which keeps jumping back up whenever it has been thrown down. A lean patch early in his career saw him getting dropped from the ODI team, but Yuvraj came back with renewed hunger and established himself as one half of Team India's duo of finishers, along with MS Dhoni, in the mid-2000s.

Accolades kept coming in the shorter format as he played pivotal roles in India's triumphant campaigns of the 2007 WT20 and 2011 ICC World Cup. But a bout with cancer ensured Yuvraj had to take a sabbatical from the game. He came back rejuvenated but a string low-key performances meant Yuvraj's future with the Indian ODI team looked bleak after being ignored for the 2015 ICC World Cup.

But the street-fighter within wanted more and a great run in the domestic circuit saw him return to India colours earlier this year, after a gap of four long years. Yuvraj celebrated his return with a vintage century, a career-best knock of 150 against England at Cuttack, that helped India seal the series. And the man credits his fighting spirit for being able to make so many comebacks.

"The biggest quality in me would be to never give up and face all the obstacles. I can only tell the youngsters to never back down. Keep working hard whether you are facing good times or bad times and be persistent.

"To play for India is one thing but to sustain a long international career is tough. Need to keep believing in yourself as people say a lot of things about you when the chips are down. One needs to believe that he can do what he has done before and achieve the same things again.

"As long as I am performing for the team and playing well, I would like to keep playing for India. Hopefully a few more years," Yuvraj said when being asked about his future plans.

Yuvraj Singh's inability to convert his ODI and T20 success to the Test arena is something that rankles even now but he chose not speak about the regrets at a time when he is "in a happy and positive zone", perhaps it is but his destiny to remain Indian cricket's 'Prince Charming' forever, but never the king.

Teams: India (From): Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli(c), Yuvraj Singh, MS Dhoni(w), Hardik Pandya, Kedar Jadhav, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Ajinkya Rahane, Dinesh Karthik, Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Shami
Bangladesh (From): Tamim Iqbal, Soumya Sarkar, Sabbir Rahman, Mushfiqur Rahim(w), Shakib Al Hasan, Mahmudullah, Mosaddek Hossain, Mashrafe Mortaza(c), Taskin Ahmed, Rubel Hossain, Mustafizur Rahman, Imrul Kayes, Sunzamul Islam, Mehedi Hasan, Shafiul Islam
First Published: June 15, 2017, 8:36 AM IST

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