India A v West Indies A, 1st unofficial ODI, Bangalore September 15, 2013

Yuvraj hopes ton sparks new beginning


Hours after marking his comeback to competitive cricket after four months with a century that set up India A's comprehensive 77-run win over West Indies A in Bangalore, Yuvraj Singh looked a relieved man. Perhaps the elation of blasting 123 off 89 balls against what he termed an "international attack" hadn't sunk in. Looking considerably lighter, and feeling like he had a massive load off his shoulders, Yuvraj hoped this knock would spark a new beginning.

Yuvraj came into this game having not played since the IPL in May. However, his road to a comeback started before that in January, when he last played for India. Ignored in the interim due to poor form and fitness, Yuvraj sought to get his fitness back with a rigorous program in France. He was given a lifeline by the selectors when named captain of the limited-overs squads in the ongoing matches against West Indies A. Expectations were high, and he delivered with a brutal century.

"I always had the belief that when I'm feeling well from inside, when I'm feeling mentally good, I'm going to do well," Yuvraj said. "It's taken a lot of time because the body has gone through a lot. You just can't go through such a disease (cancer) and come back and say 'okay, I'm going to be a 100%.'

"It's just getting better and better with every off-season I've spent. I'm just happy with the way I hit the ball today and hopefully I can carry on this form in the coming months."

Yuvraj said he paid a lot of attention to his fitness over the last few months, and credited his stints in France and the National Cricket Academy for getting him back on track.

"The doctors said it would take me about a year to get fully fit. My body's improved a lot. I was focused on training, where I had my weaknesses, on my lung capacity, my diet, in my off-season with Zak [Zaheer Khan]," Yuvraj said. "And, Tim Exeter, whom we trained with (in France), has done wonders for me and Zak in terms of getting back." Yuvraj walked in in the 12th over after India had lost two wickets for 47.

Despite the match being reduced to 42 overs, Yuvraj didn't let the pressure of the run-rate get to him, and bided his time initially. He scored his first boundary off the 39th ball he faced, and accelerated once he passed his half-century. He needed just 20 balls to get from fifty to his century, and by the time he was dismissed, he had smashed eight fours and seven sixes.

Asked if he was a bit too cautious initially, Yuvraj said the pacing of his knock was not too dissimilar from any of his other international centuries. The last time Yuvraj passed three figures was in a Ranji match against Madhya Pradesh last December.

"I've been working on my batting and skills in the last couple of weeks. I just wanted to take some time at the start and attack when I needed to," Yuvraj said. "I think most of my centuries are like this only. Take a few balls to get to 30-35, and then try and up the tempo."

Yuvraj shared stands of 100 and 125 with Mandeep Singh and Yusuf Pathan respectively, and the partnerships were crucial in propelling India A to a commanding total after the West Indies seamers made life tough for the top order. Mandeep was positive in his 67, looking for boundaries while Yuvraj looked to settle in. Yuvraj credited the younger Mandeep for taking the pressure off him.

"Once a batsmen batting with you is set, it allows you to take a bit of time in the middle. It was a fresh wicket, it was doing a bit in the first couple of overs. Robin [Uthappa] and Mandy [Mandeep], they gave us a good start. It allowed me and Yusuf to cash in in the end. Mandy dominating at that time really helped me take my time and get settled in."

He also praised the opposition's bowling attack, who were not as bad as their figures suggested. "I think it was a complete international attack," Yuvraj said. "[Andre] Russell has obviously played for West Indies, Ronsford Beaton - that kid looks really special. He looks the future of West Indies fast bowling. He reminded me of Curtly Ambrose. Obviously, Curtly was great. I think he has a lot of potential, and I think they had a very good attack."

Having failed to make the cut for the three unofficial Tests, Yuvraj said he was happy living for the moment. "Look, I got an opportunity to play. I don't know about four-day cricket; Test matches. I'm just happy I'm playing."

Kanishkaa Balachandran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on September 16, 2013, 23:36 GMT

    Why is not more written about Yusuf? He scored at more than a 200 strike rate. India has far too many great options for ODI batting, and, since Dhoni can bat in the top 6, only 5 can be selected from Kohli, Dhawan, R Sharma, Pujara, Karthik, Rahane, Tiwary, Yusuf Pathan, Raina, Yuvraj.

  • Dummy4 on September 16, 2013, 8:44 GMT

    great . 1 more knock like this will take him to Indian team

  • Dummy4 on September 16, 2013, 8:10 GMT

    Yuvi took his time well in the crease with mandeep singh hitting a 67, till that yuvraj was not hitting, later when mandeep singh went off the crease, there we saw a killing hitting by yuvraj singh. some of the best batsmans india having..! he should be selected in the odi's and t20's matches for india..! waiting for his performance again..!

  • Senthil on September 16, 2013, 7:17 GMT

    Great to see the warrior spirit back. I always felt Yuvi really wants some of his success and at times he doesn't really want it that much. In the WC, he was really charged up and he delivered handsomely. This is one gifted match winner, and if he is fit and hungry and on the prowl, it is great news for India and worry for their opponents.

  • Naresh on September 16, 2013, 6:44 GMT

    @nampally - yip being fit is definitely helpful. Indian cricket at the moment has sooo much talent - both experienced and inexperienced. The selectors only need to put the best team on the field. Some players might feel left out, but only the cream should be selected. The selectors have done a good thing by spreading their knowledge base. Imagine if someone like ZAKS could get back in. With another bowler giving him good support from the other end this could be awesome.

  • Shanmugam on September 16, 2013, 5:26 GMT

    Its really treat to watch Yuvi in full flow. Fortunate watch the whole innings. Indian cricket is at its peak. Yuvi is back with bang. God bless you.

  • sri on September 16, 2013, 5:23 GMT

    His future lies in shorter formats. He is essential for 2015 WC plans. May be he should just focus on improving his fitness and be fit for important ODIs

  • Android on September 16, 2013, 4:42 GMT

    fingers crossed!!!whether he would show consistency or not..but my heartly wishes to "prince of sixers"

  • Vikram on September 15, 2013, 21:22 GMT

    As much as I like Yuvraj, given the abundance of batsmen in India, I am excitedly looking forward to see Zaheer back in the squad. A fit Zaheer can be lethal, and can spark India's test fortunes overseas.