Champions aren't made in the gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them — a desire, a dream, a vision.
— Muhammad Ali
Boxing legend Muhammad Ali would know a thing or two about champions. And having knocked down many in his career, he would have great respect for those who got up after hitting the floor. If the great man were to talk cricket, he would probably classify Yuvraj Singh as a cricketer with a champion boxer's mind.
Late on Sunday, some parochial fans pelted Yuvraj's house in Chandigarh with stones, blaming him for the defeat in World T20 final to Sri Lanka. Three years ago the nation had raised a toast for the very cricketer after he played a stellar knock in World Cup final in 2011 against the same opponents. And it was the same when he helped team win the 2007 World T20. And how can his six sixes in an over effort be forgotten?
If Sunday shows his career is coming a full circle, Yuvraj would say that there is still a giant arc left to complete it.
Yes, Sunday may prove to be a major setback for Yuvraj. He has hit the floor and the countdown has begun. But if somebody wants to write off this gutsy Punjabi, they can do so at their own risk. He will most possibly stand up and deliver a few more knockouts.
His desire, dream and vision may appear to have diminished but if one were to consider the fact that he battled cancer successfully and returned to the Indian team, there is scope for a fresh perspective.
But even the cricketer himself would admit that he faces a tough battle. There is IPL where he can make amends. But one thing is clear, being Yuvraj has the trappings of supernova brightness and the lows of a fading star.
So, how difficult is it to be Yuvraj? To swagger in to bat, to use raw power to swat ball over square and mid wicket boundaries. To snarl at reporters who ask difficult questions. To be linked to top actresses and to be the quintessential rock star of cricket.
How difficult is to be Yuvraj, really? If asked, Ali would likely say that champions are not made in a day. Certainly not Yuvraj.
A brash son of a moderately successful cricketer, Yuvraj grew up following a military-type training regimen set forth by his demanding father. As a boy, he would be woken up rudely and made to jog and train in the cruel winter mornings of Chandigarh. He would run in rain as he would in the blistering sun in north Indian summer. The strapping youngster blessed with movie star looks, grew up into a talent to watch out for.
The seasoning made him tough. He stayed that way till he fell to his knees and broke down when his captain hit the World Cup-winning six at the other end in 2011.
It was almost like culmination of a dream that began with his second ODI, where he scored 80-ball 84 against Glenn McGrath & Co in the 2000 ICC Champions Trophy in Nairobi. In the years to follow, he notched up some unbelievable wins for Team India with the bat and at times, with the ball.
But all his hard work and the reputation — earned over 14 years in international cricket — seems to be going up in smoke following the 21-ball 11 knock in Dhaka on Sunday.
He is being held responsible for a modest total of 130 that India made and the defeat that MS Dhoni & Co suffered at the hands of Lankans.
Yuvraj, who came in the 11th over, stayed till the 18th and did nothing of note. His innings contained not even a single boundary and he clearly struggled against the Lankan spin and pace.
Dhoni, however, tried to defend his teammate in the post-match presser on Sunday. "The thing is he was trying. That is the most you can do," he said of Yuvraj.
Asked about the Punjab batsman's future, Dhoni said: "Today is a big day, so let's not talk about selection because, effectively our season ends today. Now, we go into the domestic cricket with the IPL. So, let's not talk about selection as of now, we'll see when it comes."
A clear indication that he had not given up on his beleaguered teammate.
"Nobody wants to really play bad cricket. In front of 40,000 people, you don't really want to drop a catch or misfield. It's part and parcel of the game. And we have seen it happen to many international athletes and not just cricketers. Yuvi tried his best, it was an off day for him," he added.
Despite playing 40 Tests, Yuvraj has not been able to establish himself in longer version and continues to be known as an impactful ODI player. But he has lost this edge too after his recent performances which forced the selectors to drop him from the Asia Cup squad.
Picked as a T20 specialist for the ICC World T20, Yuvraj made just 100 runs in six matches with an average of 20. This performance will certainly not go down well with the selectors.
But can we rule out this player who has achieved so much?
With IPL coming up, there is one big opportunity for Yuvraj — Royal Challengers Bangalore's most expensive player (Rs 14 crore) – to not only justify his price tag but also his huge talent that despite all said and done, has a lot left in abundance.