I hope I am wrong. Sure, that’s a terrible way to start a column. But this is about Yuvraj Singh, and just as that wonderful player is allowed a certain margin, so too should anything written about him. Especially if it does not follow the Bollywood route paved with maudlin sentimentality. The return of Yuvraj to international cricket after recovering from a rare form of cancer is an inspiring story. Yet the uncomfortable question must be asked – have we pushed him into the big league a bit too early?
Yuvraj did make some runs in the only match he played this year – the second Twenty20 against New Zealand in Chennai – but he looked to be struggling physically, having to compromise with a single when two runs were available or a two when had he been fitter he would have run three. In the end, a wild swing when India were well placed led to his dismissal and a spiralling path to defeat.
It was heart-warming to see the 30-year-old walk onto the field and roll back the days and weeks of illness and frustration. It is always elevating to see a fighter in action, one who overcomes such physical and psychological odds. It might even inspire the Indian team to the heights of 2007 when Dhoni’s men turned the world upside down by winning the World Twenty20. If players haven’t actually said, “We will do it for Yuvi,” in the manner they were saying about another World Cup last year (“We will do it for Sachin”), the media have already put such words into their mouths if not the thought in their heads.
But based on the admittedly slim evidence of the Chennai game (and remember the selectors had even less data to go by when they picked him in the Twenty20 squad in the first place), Yuvraj’s return might be premature. Will he be able to take the strain of a three-week tournament that is the World Twenty20? On how well India handles him will rest much of their fortunes. Yuvraj will, of course, want to play every match, be on the field every moment, for such is the nature of the man. But would that be wise? A Twenty20 match can be far more intense, far more challenging than a 50-over contest. It can be draining.
For a man who has survived cancer, sporting pressure might be laughable, but it is the physical toll a tournament like this one will take that is worrying.
What was the hurry? Why did we have to push Yuvraj into big cricket with such haste when a season building up the strength and playing domestic matches might have given him a gentler and less fraught path into the international scene? It was an emotional decision, not a cricketing one that Srikkanth and his co-selectors took. Yuvraj has many years of cricket ahead of him; missing the World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka might have been a wrench, but in the long run might have added years to his spell at the top.
There is no doubt that on the eve of the tournament, Yuvraj is the most inspirational figure in the Indian team, perhaps in the tournament itself. Everybody will be willing him to do well. But there is a chance too that we might have allowed our hearts to rule our heads. As I said before, I hope I am wrong.