December 12, 1981, Chandigarh
Left hand bat
Slow left arm orthodox
Middle order batter
B Yograj Singh
When all is well with Yuvraj Singh, he hits the ball as clean and long as it has ever been hit. When all is not well, he looks so awkward you forget he can hit the ball clean and long. All has been well with Yuvraj more often in limited-overs cricket, where he can be effortless and brutal at the same time, than in Tests, though his form and consistency has been on the decline since his comeback following a recovery from a rare form of germ cell cancer in 2012. When he started off, though, his athleticism on the field and his canny left-arm spin made him a key one-day player as Indian cricket went through a makeover at the turn of the century.
Yuvraj's father, Yograj, who played one Test for India, was what Mike Agassi was to Andre. So obsessed was he with Yuvraj's cricket that he took a skating gold medal off his young son's neck and threw it out of the car. "From now on, you are going to play cricket." And from then on he has played cricket. The major shift came when, at 15, he carried kitbags in crowded local trains, living away from his parents and a luxurious life in Punjab. At 18 he was shredding a strong Australian attack, in only his second ODI, in the Champions Trophy in 2000.
Soon Yuvraj would become India's middle-order lynchpin, forming fruitful partnerships first with Rahul Dravid and then with MS Dhoni. Both batsmen, superb ODI operators in their own right, credited their success to Yuvraj's ability to score at will. Testament to Yuvraj's importance is that when he was dropped from the ODI side in 2010, it was the first such occurrence since he cemented his place in the Indian team. His ODI career is full of highlight reels, with the biggest impact being his contribution to India's World Cup triumph in 2011 - 362 runs, 15 wickets, and four Man-of-the-Match awards, and the Player of the Tournament. That put to shade even his awesome achievement in the World T20 triumph in 2007, where he famously hit a Stuart Broad over for six sixes.
However, his limitations have manifested themselves in Tests, where he has struggled both against the seaming and swinging ball, and quality spin. Apart from three shining innings - a sparkling century on a Lahore greentop, another from 61 for 4 against Pakistan, and an unbeaten 85 in a successful chase of 387 in Chennai - his Test career doesn't have much to write home about.
The World Cup win in 2011 was the biggest moment of his cricket career, but soon after that came the biggest challenge of his life, when he was diagnosed cancer which required a two-and-a-half month treatment in the USA. He returned home after completing his chemotherapy in April 2012, fairly confident that he could resume his duties on the cricket field reasonably quickly and in August he was named in India's squad for the World T20 in Sri Lanka.
In January 2013, poor form and fitness led to his ouster from the team. But a visibly slimmer and fitter Yuvraj emerged from a training stint in France in October and hit an unbeaten 35-ball 77 in a T20I against Australia on his comeback. But lack of consistency meant he was out of the ODI mix after the tour of South Africa in December 2013.
Even as his form dipped, Yuvraj continued to be a hot pick at the IPL auction, picking up contracts worth over a million dollars in 2014 ($2.33 million or Rs 14 crore to RCB), 2015 ($2.67 million or Rs 16 crore to Delhi Daredevils) and 2016 ($1.04 million or Rs 7 crore to Sunrisers Hyderabad). The hype surrounding him didn't transcend onto the cricket field, however, and the low point was a laboured 21-ball 11 in the final of the 2014 World T20 which resulted in India losing momentum and eventually the title to Sri Lanka.
In January 2016, he made yet another international return, in Australia, for the T20 stretch leading into the World T20, where a twisted ankle curtailed his tournament. He hadn't had a great time at the World T20, his 52 runs coming at an average of 13.00 and a strike rate of exactly 100, and at 34, his international future seemed in doubt.
A splendid 2016-17 Ranji Trophy season - 672 runs at 84.00 - brought him back into contention, however, and the selectors recalled him to the ODI squad - for the first time since December 2013 - for the home series against England in early 2017.
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