Playing for India still remains a motivation for Yuvraj Singh, who has also insisted he has “two or three IPLs” left in him. Yuvraj, 36, also said he could have had a successful Test career and played around 80 matches had it not been for a combination of factors, including a rare form of germ-cell tumour that kept him out of the game for nearly a year. Yuvraj, though, doesn’t want to leave the game with any regrets, “thinking I should have played for some more years.”
Yuvraj came back into India’s ODI side in January 2017, after a gap of more than three years, and played 11 matches – including all of India’s matches during the Champions Trophy in England in June – before being left out again after an ODI series in the West Indies. The selectors didn’t pick him for any of the squads for the Duleep Trophy in September, which sent a signal that his international career could be over. Still, Yuvraj hasn’t given up on another India comeback. For now, he has the IPL to look forward to, with his “home” franchise Kings XI Punjab, who signed him for USD 312,000 in January’s player auction.
“I want to go when I feel it is the right time to go, when I feel I have done my best and I could not have done any more than this,” Yuvraj told Sportstar. “I am still playing because I am enjoying playing cricket, not just because I have to play for India or I have to play the IPL. The motivation is definitely to play for India. I feel two or three IPLs are left in me.”
“I have been a fighter, taking on tough situations. I like being a pillar of strength to people, for those suffering from cancer or going through other issues in life. I want to be known as someone who never gave up. Whether I play for India or not, I will give my 100 percent on the field. Cancer [YouWeCan Foundation] is going to be my area of work in the future. I love supporting young kids, I like interacting with the younger generation. Coaching is in my mind. I would identify underprivileged kids and focus on their sport and education.”
Yuvraj said he had always been keen on playing more Test cricket given how his success in the longer format invariably rubbed off on his ODI and T20I performances. “When I was growing up, I played a lot of two-day and three-day cricket,” he said. “I also looked forward to playing more and more Test matches, because I always felt that every time I did well in Test cricket, one-day cricket and (later) T20 cricket looked easier. That was the reason I wanted to play more Test matches. But the competition was so high.
“I was always trying to find a slot in competition with Sourav [Ganguly] and [VVS] Laxman. I opened the innings in one Test against Australia in Chennai in 2004. I got out early in the first innings [for 8], and then in the second innings I was batting on 7 when the game was rained off. So that opportunity too was wasted. Later I was brought into the middle-order. I eventually won a slot only when Sourav retired. And then, unfortunately, I was diagnosed as suffering from cancer at the peak of my career. I was 29. Had I continued I would have played 80 Test matches or more. But I really have no regrets.”
Since his last international appearance, Yuvraj hasn’t played for Punjab consistently in domestic tournaments this season, turning up for only game in the Ranji Trophy. He has had a middling run in both the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 tournament as well as the Vijay Hazare Trophy 50-overs tournament, where he is leading the side. While admitting that motivational levels could drop while playing in front of empty stadiums in domestic cricket, he said in the same breath that motivation had to come from within.
“For someone like me, motivation comes from within and not necessarily from the spectators. I am discovering this because I have had to start my cricket again, literally from scratch; I am going through the grind of domestic cricket,” he said. “You do like the applause from the galleries but the motivation has to come from within. Let me also tell you that it is not always easy playing in front of some of the spectators we encounter at different venues. I was able to make a comeback only because I did not miss the chance to play domestic cricket.”
In recent times, Yuvraj has been intent on achieving peak fitness. He even recently cleared the yo-yo test, the current benchmark that India’s selectors and team management have set for a player’s fitness. Yuvraj felt the emphasis on fitness was an extension of captain Virat Kohli’s own rigorous work ethic.
“Obviously, he’s very different from MSD [MS Dhoni], who is calm and composed. Virat is a bit aggressive. The results have shown that he is doing very well as captain,” Yuvraj said. “It’s a different generation too. MSD had very experienced players, match-winners. It was a very set team when he got the captaincy. The team has transformed under Virat. Being so fit himself, he emphasises on fitness. The players now are much fitter than the previous generation because the game too has become more demanding. Virat is taking the team in the right direction with his fitness and diet discipline, keeping in mind the 2019 World Cup.”