The mayhem began Thursday at 3.37 pm. A seemingly innocuous tweet by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) created a butterfly effect that shook the foundation of the cricketing world, at the expense of sounding melodramatic. It isn’t every day that one of the greatest sporting icons that not only India, but the world has seen, calls it quits from the game. It was always on the cards, for quite some time, that Sachin Tendulkar‘s illustrious and unmatched career would come to an end. The BCCI putting it’s thinking cap on and shuffling around the international schedule like it were their play pen, to accommodate the legendary batsman’s impending 200th Test match on home soil, was a further sign that the end was near. But still, one refused to believe.
So, when the tweet landed in everyone’s timeline that Tendulkar had finally called it a day, which was followed by a few more tweets displaying his statement, it was almost as if the world came to a standstill. Work stopped in offices as people rushed to Google and flocked in front of the television screens to get a confirmation of the news, perhaps hoping the BCCI’s Twitter account had been hacked. Newsrooms went into panic and overdrive, as the unlucky few journalists on their day off were summoned to work to help create a carpet bomb of material related to Tendulkar. Within seconds, the question in the staunchest of critics’ minds changed from ‘when will he retire’ to ‘why did he retire’. You could almost say, every Indian was in a state of shock. Well, all but one.
At the Saurashtra Cricket Association (SCA) ground in Rajkot, one man was making his return to international cricket and India blue. Yuvraj Singh had waited long for this day. It was his second comeback into the Indian team in 12 months. Following a long battle with cancer which took him out of the game for more than a year after the successful 2011 World Cup campaign, Yuvraj had returned to Team India in September 2012 via the Twenty20 format. However, he was never quite the same Yuvraj everyone had known until the World Cup. He was looking unfit, his batting had lost its unique flowy nature and his once impeccable timing of the ball was lost in the wilderness. It wasn’t long before he was dropped from the team in early 2013 after a continuous flop show.
At 31, not many expected a third coming. The Indian fans had all but given up on the possibility of Yuvraj ever returning to the form that had decimated bowling attacks across the world. There was a touch of sympathy in the way people looked at him — cancer must be hard, you can’t blame him; he’s done his bit and deserves to retire and put his feet up. Not yet, said India’s prince as he booked a flight to France to undergo a rigorous fitness training program to get back in shape. He returned having lost the rolly-polly figure and a renowned zest. He took the domestic scene by storm and barged through the selectors’ door with a spectacular show for India A. And just like that, it came as no surprise when he was named in India’s squad for the limited overs home series against Australia, possibly Yuvraj’s favourite opponents.
So, when Tendulkar, the pulse of the nation, decided to retire on the same day Yuvraj was to make his comeback, you could imagine the latter saying, “You may be God or whatever, but this is my day and I’m not going to let you steal my thunder.” The stage was set: Australia had posted an imposing 202-run target for India in the one-off T20. He walked in to bat with the score on 80 for three in the ninth over, with his team still needing more than 120 in about 70 balls. “Now that’s what I’m talking about,” he would have said.
To the delight of the capacity crowd at Rajkot, and millions of Indian fans and neutrals watching worldwide, Yuvraj took everyone back in time to the glory days. The elegant lofted flicks over deep mid-wicket, the mighty pulls to deep square-leg and fine-leg, and the charismatic drives in the ‘V’ were back in full flow. Yuvraj provided a cricketing orgasm to anyone who had decided to ditch Tendulkar and come and watch him. There was one particular shot he hit off the bowling of Clint McKay, which truly exuded his confidence: McKay went for the slower one outside off; Yuvraj calmly waited for the ball to arrive, contemplated powering it through the off, before eventually deciding to cheekily dab it to the left of the ‘keeper to the vacant third-man fence.
Yuvraj scored 77 compelling and exhilarating runs, which came at a strike-rate of 220 and were enough to get India past the line. Tendulkar? Who Tendulkar? The SCA Stadium did not care; it’s inhabitants were in a trance. Back at home, Yuvraj had managed to divert the attention of the public from the news channels to the sports channel. Newsrooms had gone into further chaos, with editors shuffling around the articles to make way for India’s Prince Charming. Yuvraj had done his best to make the day his, and given the Herculean task that it was to fight for space with Tendulkar, he had done well. Extremely well. The disappointment of Tendulkar’s retirement had almost been made up for, single-handedly. So, what if he’s gone? Main hoon na? (I’m there, right?)
(Jaideep Vaidya is a correspondent at CricketCountry. A diehard Manchester United fan and sports buff, you can follow him on Twitter and Facebook)