'Probably one of my best innings' - Yuvraj
Yuvraj Singh, who spent three years out of India's ODI side, marked his return with his career-best score - 150 off 127 balls - in his 295th ODI, against England in Cuttack. Once he reached his century - his first since the 2011 World Cup in India, where he was Man of the Tournament - Yuvraj thumped his chest and grew emotional. The 35-year-old pressed on to make 150, before edging behind in the 43rd over. His knock was instrumental in launching India from 25 for 3 to 381 for 6, and Yuvraj rated it as probably one of his best.
"Probably, one of my best - my highest score in ODIs," Yuvraj told Star Sports. "The last time I got a hundred was the 2011 World Cup; I am pretty happy that I played a good innings.
"I just tried to get a partnership. They [England] bowled really well upfront and we just wanted to rotate the strike and get into the rhythm, and take our time. There was a lot of time. I just wanted to play down the ground and not take many risks."
Yuvraj saw off Chris Woakes' threatening opening burst (5-3-14-3) and rebuilt the innings with MS Dhoni before unfurling a gallery of shots, including the lofted drive over long-off and the pick-up flick over midwicket. Yuvraj credited his touch to a prolific run in the Ranji Trophy: he scored 672 runs in eight innings at 84, including a career-best 260 for Punjab against Baroda at Feroz Shah Kotla in October last year.
"I think [in] the whole domestic season I had been batting well," Yuvraj said. "I have been hitting the ball well. I have worked hard on my fitness and my batting. Even in the last game I was hitting the ball well. I knew if it's my day... I just told Sanjay Bangar the way I'm hitting the ball I think I am going to score big. Whatever the stage is, we try to be positive, that's the reason why me and Mahi were able to get the rhythm going."
Yuvraj lauded his former captain Dhoni with whom he added 256 in 38.2 overs for the fourth wicket. Ahead of the series, Yuvraj had said he was looking forward to "batting fearlessly" with a freed-up Dhoni, and on Thursday he reiterated that Dhoni was still a key cog in the middle order, despite relinquishing the limited-overs captaincy.
"He [Dhoni] played a great innings," Yuvraj said. "He is the most experienced middle-order batsman in the team. He is also a sensational captain. He was more free today, the way he was batting. I have always said when Mahi is not captaining he is more free and you saw the result today."
Later, at the post-match press conference, Yuvraj elaborated on how the pair had gone about building the partnership: "We two were the most experienced players in the team. He realised that I was getting boundaries. He was just there rotating the strike and our first target was to make a 50-run partnership. After that we wanted to take our partnership further to 100 runs."
Yuvraj also admitted there was a time after his battle with cancer where he thought "whether he should continue or not".
"I came back after recovering from cancer, the first two-three years were very hard," he said. "I had to work hard on my fitness and I was in and out of the team. I was not able to get a permanent spot. There was a time when I was wondering whether to continue or not to continue. Never giving up is my theory. I knew time will change.
"I don't think about who's reacting to what nor do I read newspapers. I don't watch TV too. I try to focus on my game and prove a point to myself that I'm still good enough for international cricket."