By Madan Mohan
At the time of writing, Indian cricketer Yuvraj Singh has tweeted to the nation that the tumour is almost out of the system. His fans re-tweeted this heart-warming news that brought with it hopes of his speedy recovery. Over the past few months, the nation has been praying in unison for Yuvraj’s recovery from the medical nightmare he is facing… and has perhaps learnt to love him again.
Yuvraj arrived on the big stage with a bang, striking a match-winning 84 against Australia in the Champions Trophy in just his second international innings. It raised expectations from the fans so much that people felt a tinge of disappointment at the way his career has shaped up since then. He has had a very good One-Day International (ODI) career with 8051 runs and 109 wickets. But his Test career has been a stop-start affair and he hasn’t justified the unquestionable talent he possesses.
In the meantime, Yuvraj didn’t quite turn out to be the lovable boy next door that every sporting champion (male!) is seemingly expected to be. Unlike Sachin Tendulkar, the nation’s biggest cricketing heartthrob, Yuvraj appeared brash and overconfident - almost over the top. He seemed rather sure of himself and embraced the glamour of stardom with disquieting ease. Indians had grown used to shy, diffident faces off the field. Yuvraj was not shy of expressing himself and the outcome of his self-expression wasn’t always edifying.
If his triumphant World Cup 2011 campaign promised resurgence, subsequent tournaments suggested a relapse. Yuvraj seemed to be struggling for fitness and form and some fans had nearly resigned themselves to the possibility that he may never fulfil his promise. Questions over his commitment did the rounds in the press. Brand Yuvraj seemed to be sinking.
And then came the bolt from the blue. In November, Yuvraj asked that he should not be considered for selection for the ODI series against West Indies because he had been diagnosed with a lung tumour. As details about his treatment and recovery kept flowing - often through Yuvraj’s tweets - in the next couple of months, feelings about Yuvraj began to change.
Fans felt a sense of guilt for having raised doubts over his ability and motivation, especially when they learned that he had been sick even during the course of the 2011 World Cup. Nobody had the heart to say anything terrible about Yuvraj anymore. The BCCI, actor Aamir Khan, tennis star Mahesh Bhupathi and cycling legend Lance Armstrong… these were just some of the quarters from which Yuvraj was offered support – moral or monetary. Even as some Indian cricketers appeared less than heroic during the Australian debacle, Yuvraj was the nation’s hero once more and social networks purveyed prayers by fans for his speedy recovery.
This metamorphosis is not all that surprising. It is what tragedy does to a person and to the people around him. One cannot ever wish that tragedy visits the doorstep of any person. Curiously, though, a sporting person - or anybody who is famous for that matter - seems to win more admirers when he combats personal tragedy than when he is healthy and happy.
The drama of a phoenix rising from the ashes and taking wing once more is irresistible and people connect with that feeling when they see a once imposing sporting warrior tumble and get back on his feet once more to fight. Monica Seles had more admirers in her later years as courageous struggler, shrugging off a deranged spectator’s attempt to stab her, than when she ruled women’s tennis in the early 90s as a young, fearless and cocky woman.
Tragedy can also change a person and his outlook towards life. Is it the struggle, the pain, the test of character? Whatever it is, many famous persons have emerged from tragedy transformed, often more modest and more generous. Glenn McGrath’s late wife Jane McGrath succumbed to a long battle with breast cancer. It left him shattered but in her (and in turn, his) tragedy were sown the seeds of the McGrath Foundation, dedicated to raising funds towards breast care.
Yuvraj is not out of the woods yet. God willing, his recovery will now be smooth and in all probability emerge from his struggle a better person. And he will find that his fans are eagerly awaiting his return to action, without the misgivings they perhaps used to have. Because nobody wants to know about his attitude or commitment now. The nation just wants to see Yuvraj play again! Here’s hoping that he gets well soon.
(Madan Mohan is a 26-year old chartered accountant from Mumbai. The writing bug bit him when he was eight and to date, he has not been cured of it. He loves music, cricket, tennis and cinema and writing on cricket is like the icing on the cake. He also writes a blog if he is not feeling too lazy at http://rothrocks.wordpress.com/)