India v Australia, only T20, Rajkot October 11, 2013

Yuvraj gets his swagger back

Yuvraj's second comeback since cancer was characterised by his signature pick-up flicks and lofted drives. He bossed the narrative of the match. It was Yuvraj of the old
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During the 2011 World Cup quarter-final between India and Australia, Yuvraj Singh played the cut off Brett Lee. It was a typical Yuvraj stroke. It was played on the move, with the confidence of a batsman settled in an ODI innings, actively seeking runs. The ball travelled so fast, third man had little chance of saving the boundary. Yet, Yuvraj hadn't appeared to have used brute strength. He hadn't merely guided the ball either. What he had done seemed to lie exactly between the two extremes - the hard and the soft, the severe and the gentle. He had blended power and timing so well the stroke appeared effortless as well as graceful without losing any of its potency. Yuvraj in full flow, they said.

That is what Yuvraj of the old used to do before being hit by cancer. That is what the man who came back last year after overcoming the illness could not seem to do. That is what the man who has mounted a second comeback seems capable of, again. Tonight against Australia, that characteristic blend of power and timing marked his strokes. Yuvraj in full flow, they said again.

It has been a while since we have seen that "flow". Yuvraj was given an emotional comeback in 2012 after recovering from cancer, in a T20 against New Zealand in Chennai. He played a big slog-sweep or two in making 34 off 26 but generally struggled to rediscover his rhythm. Tellingly, he paused to catch his breath for several seconds after running a two, or even when sprinting for a quick single, his eyes wide open with the effort.

It was the same sight in the World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka a couple of weeks later. The running and fielding were labored. The pulls weren't flying into the stands. The drives didn't have the familiar imperiousness. If you looked closely, even the ever-present swagger had lost some of its assurance. It was becoming clearer and clearer that it had been a largely emotional selection, with evidence of the lack of match practice. Yuvraj's body hadn't regained enough strength to be able to execute his mind's desire to perform like he used to in international cricket.

He hung on for some more time before being dropped. The desire was still intact, and led him to put his body through a punishing fitness regimen. A leaner, fitter Yuvraj forced his way back this time through the weight of List A runs.

It is only one innings yet, but the contrast with the earlier comeback, and the resemblance with the original version, was striking. It was not simply the fact that Yuvraj made an unbeaten 77 off 35 to resurrect another limited-overs chase for India. It was the way he made those runs. It was the way those pick-up flicks and lofted drives flew off his bat.

The pick-up flick is not an easy shot to pull off. A leading edge can make people wonder what exactly you were trying to attempt. But when he is in his zone, as he was on Thursday, Yuvraj can make the shot appear so straightforward a response and its execution so emphatic, not going for it would seem unnatural.

Apart from the choice of strokes, there is one larger theme to Yuvraj on such days. He gives you the feeling that he is in complete charge of the situation. He does not seem to be merely controlling the narrative of a match, he seems to be bossing it. You can spot that in his movements, in the way he picks up the length, in his swagger after hitting a boundary, in his determined eyes. You know the asking-rate is high, you know there isn't much batting to follow, but somewhere inside, you also know that Yuvraj is going to produce the big shot when it is required.

There were a few tweets from fans saying that the sight of Yuvraj in flow had somewhat lessened the numbness they felt on the day Sachin Tendulkar had announced his retirement. That is what the Yuvraj of old could do. He could move people. As he did in Rajkot. It has been a while.

Abhishek Purohit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Cpt.Meanster on October 12, 2013, 20:22 GMT

    @sandy_bangalore: Where were you when Yuvraj smashed Stuart Broad for 36 in an over in Durban back during the World T20 in 2007 ? Arguably South Africa's most pacy and bounciest pitch ! Plus, Yuvraj has played many match winning innings around the world including a brilliant hundred against England in a Natwest final in 2002 (Lord's). If Yuvraj is a king on flat tracks, why is it that every English, Australian and South African batsmen FAIL regularly on some of the 'easiest' pitches on earth ? In fact England and SA have NEVER won a world cup. Speaks volumes about their players and their one day cricket isn't it ? It is time folks accept Yuvi as the ultimate warrior. He's better than most other players playing in world cricket.

  • RanjithShettyJordan on October 12, 2013, 12:06 GMT

    Some of the comments are regarding the fitness of UV. But for who following UV even when he is not in any playing team, they knows where he was and what was he doing.I am a twitter follower of UV and i know exactly what he was doing.Now he looks like 10 years younger and fitter because of his almost three months of fitness training far away in france leaving all the limelights back in india with Zaheer. There is no question about the fitness about UV now and nobody can"t drop him from any team including test. Luck always follows the daredevils and UV is one of those rare talent and workhorse indian cricket produced.I never heard any cricket fan talking badly about UV. These is no looking back for UV now.In the absence of sir tendulker you create your own history .Go UV go.

  • Sir_Ivor on October 12, 2013, 6:51 GMT

    Not everyone can play an innings like Sunil Gavaskar did in scoring 97 in the second innings in Bangalore in 1987 against Pakistan on a raging turner. It was a low scoring game.Or like Dravid played in Kingston Jamaica in July 2006.In fact I mentioned these two greats only to say that only a very low percentage of even the acknowledged great batsmen of any period are all weather players. People talk of success in England,Australia,and South Africa under seaming or bouncing wickets as the only criteria to judge batsmen largely because it has been instilled in them that way.If Australians or till recently Englismen,could not play on spinning tracks,it was never made an issue.I feel that it is because people believe that cricket belongs only to lands where the ball bounces above the head or swings towards third slip. Yuvraj Singh is very good on some days.Not just wickets. He does have good scores in England,Australia and S Africa and scored 169 on a seaming wicket in a Test in Bangalore.

  • dummy4fb on October 11, 2013, 23:06 GMT

    Courageous man with a courageous comeback. But was he ever in full flow on wickets in Oz, England or South Africa against their bowlers? Ever?

  • dummy4fb on October 11, 2013, 18:56 GMT

    Yuvraj in full flow - a danger for opponents, no matter where and how the pitch is, who the bowler is and what the conditions are. There absolutely no batsman in the world who turns the match in matter of few ball, on consistent basis. he has played, is playing and will always play those memorable knocks again and again and a nightmare for bowlers the world around. Name a bowler, who could claim, has dominated Yuvi consistently. I am a soccer player with minimum interest in cricket. I always followed Yuvi, since the knock of 84 against Aussies in 2000 champions trophy. I m glad that he made a similar statement against the Aussie in his comeback game. Carry of Yuvi, You always give smiles to a millions

  • IT13 on October 11, 2013, 16:52 GMT

    I know UV has his weakness but to me he is still the best limited over player India has in team right now, He bowls in every match efficiently, a awesome fielder and a dynamite batsman when he gets going. The way he plays those big shots effortlessly indicate what he can do when he is in the right form.

  • Unmesh_cric on October 11, 2013, 16:10 GMT

    I remember that stroke against Brett Lee in the World Cup quarter-final. India were under pressure in that chase. But that stroke of confidence from Yuvraj conveyed the opposition that Yuvi is there to win the game for India. Yuvraj was a vital cog in the Indian line-up in the World Cup. Not only did he score crucial runs all throughout, he also resolved India's 5th bowler problem. Yuvi was like a man on mission in that World Cup.

  • cricketsubh on October 11, 2013, 13:20 GMT

    finch luk very gud player to me i canot belive why he not pick for aus t20 world cup squard in 2012 and 2010 .

  • CricketChat on October 11, 2013, 13:01 GMT

    Granted Yuvi's knock was the reason why Ind won, but I don't know if he is back fully or not until we see how he plays in ODIs which will test his fitness to a greater extent. Don't think selectors would be looking at him as a test prospect yet until they get a clearer picture of his fitness though there will be vacancy when Sachin retires.

  • dummy4fb on October 11, 2013, 11:52 GMT

    Yuvraj Singh is an inspiration . So glad ,he is back in the team ,hopefully he builds on this .And I totallly agree with last sentence ,I am one of them.

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