This game taught me how to fight, how to fall, to dust myself off and get up again and move forward. I have failed more times than I have succeeded, but I never gave up, and will never give up, till my last breath
Yuvraj Singh has called time on his international - as well as IPL - career, finishing up after 40 Tests, 304 ODIs and 58 T20Is in which he established himself as the best Indian allrounder of his generation - an explosive batsman, useful slow left-arm bowler and dynamic fielder. "I have decided to move on," he said at a press briefing in Mumbai.
"After 25 years, in and around 22 yards, and after almost 17 years of international cricket on and off, I have decided to move on," he said. "I am extremely lucky to play 400-plus games for India. I would never have imagined this when I started my career as a cricketer. It was a love-hate relationship with the sport, in retrospect. I don't think I hated the game, because the love I have for it today, which will remain a constant till the end of [my] life. I can't really express in words what is that feeling.
"This game taught me how to fight, how to fall, to dust myself off and get up again and move forward. I have failed more times than I have succeeded, but I never gave up, and will never give up, till my last breath, and that's what cricket has taught me. I gave my blood and sweat to the game once I got on to it, especially when it came to representing my country.
"The adrenaline rush, playing for India, singing the national anthem before each game, touching the Indian flag, stopping every run for the team, or scoring every run for the team, was a completely different high. To be part of history, that was made after 28 years [in 2011], I mean, honestly, what more could I ask for?"
All cricketers want to sign off on a high. For Yuvraj, that wasn't to be. His team Mumbai Indians won the 2019 IPL, but Yuvraj was benched after the initial few matches following average returns.
"Yes, that's right, I wasn't as successful, and opportunities were also fewer," Yuvraj said in response to a why-now question. "I started my career in 2000, so it's 19 years now. I was a bit confused about how I wanted to end my career. I thought that in the IPL, that we won, if I had got to play [in the final], and ended my career after that, I would have had a very satisfying exit. But life doesn't give you everything.
"I had actually decided last year itself that the IPL this year would be my last one and I'd give it my best shot. The time comes in everyone's life when they think that, 'Enough now.' I would say that I had thought a year back itself that I will retire at this time. Internationally I've retired from all forms of cricket."
That said, he does want to try his luck in T20 - and perhaps even T10 - leagues beyond India's shores.
"Yes, definitely, I want to go and play some T20 cricket. I think at this age, I can manage to play some fun cricket. I want to enjoy my life. It's been too stressful, just thinking about my international career, performing, and big tournaments like IPL… hopefully I'll just enjoy myself," he said. "Obviously I'll take BCCI permission to go out and play. For this year, or maybe next year, I don't know.
"I just want to have fun and enjoy time for myself. It's been a very long and hard journey, and I deserve that. I've had a word with the BCCI. I will have another word after this announcement."
The greatest triumph for Yuvraj, now 37, was undoubtedly the 2011 World Cup, when he hit four half-centuries and a century, while also picking up 15 wickets - including a five-for against Ireland - on his way to the Man of the Tournament award as India won the trophy for only the second time.
That, however, was followed by a terrible low, as Yuvraj was diagnosed with mediastinal seminoma, a germ-cell tumour located between his two lungs. The diagnosis was confirmed in February 2012, and he stayed out of the game till December that year, when he made a comeback following treatment. The returns following that were a mixed bag, though, and he last turned out in national colours in June 2017 in an ODI during India's tour of the West Indies.
"As I go back in time today, my life has been like a roller-coaster ride," Yuvraj said. "Winning the 2011 World Cup, being Man of the Series, four Man of the Match awards, was all like a dream, which was followed by a harsh reality, getting diagnosed with cancer. It was like touching the sky and then falling down at light speed and hitting the ground hard. All this happened so quickly, and that too when I was [at] the peak of my career. But in that moment, everyone to whom I mattered, stood together for me - my fans, my friends, my family.
"Probably the worst day in my career was the 2014 T20 World Cup final against Sri Lanka when I scored 11 off 21 balls. It was so shattering that I felt my career was over. And I was written off by everyone to an extent that made me feel at times that it was all over. Then I took a bit of time [off] and I realised why I play cricket; it's because I love the game. So I went back to basics and scored heavily in domestic cricket. A year and a half later, I made my comeback in T20Is for India, where I hit a six and a four in the last over against Australia in Sydney, and suddenly all the belief came right back.
"I finally made my comeback in one-day cricket after three years in Cuttack on 19th January against England in 2017. I recorded my highest one-day score of 150 in 127 balls when everybody said it was impossible. Trust me, I have never stopped believing in myself. No matter what the world said, believe in yourself because if you put your heart and soul into it, you can achieve the impossible."
Yuvraj, who has continued to be a part of the Indian Premier League and, occasionally, for Punjab in the domestic circuit, ended his career with an outstanding ODI record of 8701 runs - 22nd in the overall list, and seventh among Indians - at an average of 36.55 and 111 wickets. In his sporadic Test appearances, he scored three centuries and 11 half-centuries in aggregating 1900 runs, and in T20Is - where he headlined India's 2007 title-winning effort with a blast of six sixes in a Stuart Broad over - he ended with 1177 runs and 28 wickets.