Posted On Wednesday, September 12, 2012 at 08:27:46 AM
|Yuvraj Singh gestures during fielding against New Zaealand in the second T20 game at the MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai yesterday
Even if you tried you couldn’t ignore the sentimentality. Long before the match started, Yuvraj Singh’s presence had made it much more than just a hit-and-giggle T20 affair. All evening eyes were on him at Chepauk.
A shout if he stopped the ball, a groan when he was hit for a six, a sigh when he beat the bat, and a cry of joy when he waved at them: Chepauk wasn’t full but it was filled with emotion.
Then there was the setting. At one end three empty stands — due to an infringement with the Chennai Municipal Corporation — with yellow-bucket seats was an eye sore. Across them sat a sea of blue, clad in free blue T-shirts handed out by an apparel giant. Purists perhaps might have cringed at that commercialisation but the crowd didn’t seem to mind. They had come to watch Yuvraj and they didn’t mind the freebie.
The first piece of action from Yuvraj came thirty minutes before the toss. As they always do these days, India were warming up with a football game, when he thrust himself at you. He screamed in mock protest when the ball hit someone’s hand and demanded a free kick.
When the opposition protested, Yuvraj grabbed the ball and shook his head in mock anger. He won that debate and even took the kick. It didn’t result in a goal but it certainly brought up a lot of smiles amongst team-mates and the sparse crowd that had turned up at that point.
The match meanwhile, began with India choosing to field and instinctively the eyes turned to Yuvraj. There he was limbering around at midwicket or at backward point. You wondered what was going inside his head: Was there nervous excitement? Was there a tremendous adrenalin rush?
Was there a slight apprehension? In the third over, the crowd shrieked when Yuvraj dived at backward point to stop a ball. It’s not as if one expected his fielding skills to vanish after his recent trauma but that dive made you feel good.
Eventually that moment came. At the end of the fifth ball of the fifth over, bowled by L Balaji, Dhoni signalled to Yuvraj to get ready to bowl. He even rolled his left-arm to mimic the bowling action. Soon, the big screen said simply: Welcome back Yuvi. The beauty of that piece of action was that Yuvraj the bowler hadn’t changed. One wondered whether the occasion of his comeback would make him “look” eager and energetic when he bowled.
Will he look purposeful? Nope. He was the man of old. As ever, he ambled in like a Sunday-park bowler, as ever there was a disinterested air as he swayed in to bowl and suggest, ‘ Here I am, do what you want with my pies’.
With Yuvraj, you know that it’s not a cleverly developed act of deception; it’s how he bowls. As a bowler, he has always looked old, aged while he was still young.
The sentimentality of the occasion didn’t escape even the New Zealanders. At the end of Yuvraj’s first over, Brendon McCullum said something with a smile to Yuvraj and even patted him on his back.
In the next over, McCullum turned competitive again as he charged out and smoked a six over the sight screen. Yuvraj turned, looked at the trajectory, gently bobbed his head and swayed to his bowling mark.
As Yuvraj receded to his fielding spots, McCullum began to express himself. He sashayed down the track to lift R Ashwin for two sixes, pulled and swatted the seamers for fours and charged New Zealand to a competitive 167.
Everything was a blur though. Not because he didn’t bat well but because you couldn’t just shake Yuvraj out of your head. The rest seemed mere detail.
The beauty of that piece of action was that Yuvraj the bowler hadn’t changed
New Zealand 167-5 (Brendon McCullum 91, Kane Williamson 28, Ross
Taylor 25 not out; Irfan Pathan 3-31) beat India 166-4 (Virat Kohli 70, Yuvraj Singh 34; K Mills 2-17) by one run