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The Prince and the Pauper
Feb 12, 2008
The Prince and the Pauper

By Rahul Namjoshi

“To attack, or not to: that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.”

Well Yuvraj Singh might not have read Hamlet but would surely have seen scores of Bollywood movies where two similar looking guys from two completely dissimilar backgrounds, exchange places. So may be Mark Twain is a better choice in explaining the quandary of being “Yuvraj Singh”.

What is the first recollection of an Indian cricket fan when the above mentioned name is uttered? Natwest 2003, his fielding at point, his overconfident (some may say arrogant) demeanour, Stuart Broad, Deepika Padukone?

2007 was a dream year for Yuvi. He was the most valuable player in ODIs for India in 2007. He hit six sixes off a Stuart Broad over joining Sir Gary and Ravi Shastri. To put things in perspective, he was the only batter to achieve this feat against an international bowler. He hit as scintillating a counterattacking century as one can hope to watch against Pakistan at Bengaluru. Lalit Modi gifted him a Porsche. He was the hottest property on the ad circuit, expected to surpass even Tendulkar’s earnings in the near future. Every ex cricketer worth his salt blasted the selection committee for not giving him a place in the test team. The common refrain was – “He should be in the team. I dunno whom to drop to make a place for him, but one can’t ignore his claims.” Knowing glances were cast towards VVS when these statements were made. MSD was made the captain of a T20 team when everyone expected Yuvi to get the throne. He was a prince, not the King. That was maybe the only negative in an otherwise outstanding 2007.

Come Australia and all pundits forecast a brilliant Aussie summer for him. The bouncy pitches would suit his aggressive style, they said. He had to be in the test team. Strategy be damned. Rahul Dravid was sacrificed at the opener’s altar to make way for the prince. And then the unthinkable happened. He flopped BIG time. The feet stopped moving, the brain stopped thinking, a half volley seemed like a yorker, a short wide ball felt like a beamer, Hogg looked like Warne and Lee looked like Lillee and Roberts rolled into one. He looked completely disinterested in the on field happenings. There was Deepika sitting in the stands. One doesn’t mean to be a page 3 journalist but just couldn’t help it. Two tests and Kumble could not afford to play 10 Indians against 13 Australians any more. Yuvi was dropped. The prince had turned into a pauper.

Form is a fickle, ask Ricky Ponting about his Indian experiences in 2001, ask Yuvi about Australia 2007-08. The attitude was still visible through a couple of incidents. The press conference where he insisted that the team wouldn’t exactly miss Ganguly and Dravid in the ODI series and that the youngsters had won the T20 championship in their absence. But the mind doesn’t seem to be there on the field.

Yuvi has scored 11 runs in 3 ODIs and scored 17 runs in 4 innings in tests in Australia. This is not an article blasting Yuvraj Singh and calling for his head. He is too class an act to be even thinking about it. Ironically he is credited with the current Team India mantra of ‘fire or retire’. He has to fire for the team, sooner the better.

The last few days have seen cricketers like Shaun Tait and Lou Vincent talking of depression, mental unfitness concluding in an untimely termination of their international careers. One hopes that Yuvi is not suffering from similar ailments. One can get through a slump in form and one hopes that’s the only reason for the current state of affairs.

In Mark Twain’s world, the prince returned to his throne after experiencing the hardships of poverty. Yuvi shall return as well.

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