The Test of My Life April 6, 2013

An inspiring story, simply told

The tale of how Yuvraj Singh beat cancer and came back to cricket is now the subject of a book that reveals the man behind the allrounder

Towards the end of this book, Yuvraj Singh asks the question: "What if I had been any Indian sportsman but a cricketer?" And he answers thus: "There would have been a few articles in the newspapers and some stories on TV. Federation bosses would have made the right noises and everyone would have clucked in pity. After that my family and friends would have had to run around trying to get me treated... it would have been easier to walk away from the sport I loved."

Being a cricketer meant that Yuvraj was under the care of India's richest sporting body, the BCCI. It meant that he was guaranteed the best treatment, a clear path back to his sport, and sufficient media space to tell his story. Not surprisingly, he became the best-known cancer survivor in the country, and even if the occasional tasteless advertisement capitalised on that, the larger picture was positive.

During the World Cup, India's captain, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, said to the media, "[Yuvraj] has been vomiting a lot." It was seen as an anxiety reflex. In fact, Yuvraj himself said, "Yes, the anxiety can be really heavy." Yet this wasn't about butterflies in the stomach but a tumour, and a cancerous one at that. No one knew then, of course, and in hindsight one marvels at how Yuvraj kept playing and carrying on as if everything was normal.

The story is an inspiring one, and the book tells it with the clarity and insight of a newspaper report, which is both its strength and its weakness. Had this been a Bollywood story, it might have been dismissed as fanciful and far-fetched. Yet it is all true, which is why it is not difficult to forgive the descent into heart-tugging Bollywood style, and constructions like "Water, juice, energy drinks, by this time these were all into-Yuvi, out-of-Yuvi."

Of the three strands that make up the narrative - family, cricket and cancer - each serves as a cautionary tale. Yuvraj does not shy away from speaking about his father, the India player Yograj Singh, and his obsession with making his son a star; for every Yuvraj-type success, there are possibly thousands who might be marked for life. The cricket part too hints at many what-might-have-beens.

The cancer - the time wasted on alternative medicine, the denial, confirmation, and finally full recovery and return to the Indian team - forms the most crucial cautionary tale of all. "You could have died of a heart attack," his doctor tells Yuvraj. The tumour had been pressing against an artery.

The book bravely strips away the macho public image of a talented allrounder good enough to play for India at 19, and reveals a vulnerable human being unafraid to cry. Top of the world at 29, within weeks Yuvraj faced the prospect of the end, and not just of his career. The horror (and necessity) of chemotherapy is well told, the gratitude at the simple fact of being alive is a subtext.

Better editing might have ensured a smoother read. Such sentences as "You reach downtown, and steam rises out of manholes, the buildings are huge, but hardly a soul to be seen" stick in the throat. The ghostwriters have attempted to speak in Yuvraj's voice, so there are few literary flourishes. The story is compelling enough to make the many irritants seem irrelevant.

The Test of My Life: From cricket to cancer and back
by Yuvraj Singh
Random House India
Hardback, 189 pages, Rs 399

Suresh Menon is the editor of the Wisden India Almanack

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  • sulav.dahal on April 6, 2013, 17:26 GMT

    I am expecting this book to be a very good read. Yubaraj is one of my favorite players. Better to say, favorite all rounder! His battle against the cancer was inpiring. But as he himself said that if he had been any other sports man than cricket, then he would have been sidelined from the scene quickly. But BCCI, and entire India was with him. Yuvi, you got second innings of your cricket career, cash it in a grand way! Best of Luck.

  • Pinaki91 on April 6, 2013, 3:58 GMT

    I am reading this book now. I really like the honesty with which he has described the relationship between his father("Sher"). Its a compelling story. How his father prepared him for fast bowling, throwing wet tennis ball on marble floor, Yograj Singh desperately wanted his son to be a world class cricketer. Yuvi has done more than this.

  • KiwiRocker- on April 6, 2013, 3:02 GMT

    Yes, indeed a compelling read.As Suresh points out, it shows a human side of Yuvraj Singh who is definitely one of finest ODI players India produced and its a shame that he was never successful in test matches. I hope that as a minimum he continues playing ODI's. I am also confident that Yuvraj will take back his first hand experience of cancer and will do well for the needy ones. He has already started charities and camaigns and this is what any famous sportsman should/can do. It is very powerful when you are a cricketer in India or Pakistan so cricketers should also give 'back' some of the affection and love they get from billions of blind fans! A prime example is Imran Khan. A warrior on the field who has devoted his life to help Pakistanis and cancer patients after he lost his mother. A wonderful role model for any cricketer. I hope Yuvraj follows that path.

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