Mumbai: Yuvraj Singh, the Player of the Tournament during India's historic run to the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup title in 2011, has announced his retirement from international cricket at the age of 37. He also confirmed that he has played his final season at the Indian Premier League.
Yuvraj was a three-time ICC trophy winner, also having played a vital role in 2007 when India lifted the inaugural ICC World Twenty20 in South Africa, to kick start a brand new era under the leadership of MS Dhoni. He was also part of the team that shared the 2002 ICC Champions Trophy with Sri Lanka.
A decorated limited-overs player, and one of the world's most destructive batsmen in his prime, Yuvraj ends his career with 304 one-day internationals, in which he made 8701 runs – the seventh highest in India's one-day history – and 1177 runs in 58 Twenty20 Internationals. He also enjoyed a brief run in the Test arena, where his 1900 runs came at an average of 33.92 and included a career-best of 169, in what was co-incidentally India's last Test against Pakistan.
In an emotional press conference in Mumbai on Monday, 10 June, Yuvraj reflected on an international career that began in 2000, when he arrived during the ICC Champions Trophy as a brash, hard-hitting 18-year-old. "After 17 years of international cricket, I have decided to move on," he said.
"Cricket has given me everything that I have, and it is the reason I am here. This game taught me how to fight, how to fall, how to dust myself off, get up again and move forward. I have failed more times than I succeeded, but never gave up, and will never give up till my last breath. This is what the game has taught me. I gave my blood and sweat for the game, especially when it came to the country. Since my childhood, I always tried to fulfil my father’s dream of playing for India and winning the World Cup, and I can proudly say I achieved it."
That World Cup win, in 2011, was the defining moment in Yuvraj's career, and life, both because of what happened during and after the tournament. Yuvraj fought through fitness issues before the tournament to pick up four Player of the Match awards. He finished it with 362 runs at an average of 90.50, with a hundred and four fifties in eight innings, to go alongside 15 wickets, including a career-best 5/31 against Ireland.
Shortly after the tournament, however, Yuvraj was diagnosed with lung cancer, which set his career back irreversibly. A few short months after the World Cup, he played the Nottingham Test against England, during India's infamous 2011 tour, and made a promising return with 62 in the first innings, but suffered a blow to his left hand, which put him out of commission.
"Winning the 2011 World Cup, being the Man of the Series, getting four Man of the Match awards, is all I could dream," he said. "Then came the harsh reality - cancer. It was like I had touched the sky, and was falling down at the speed of light. I was at the peak of my career. In those moments, everyone stood by me - my fans, my friends, my family."
While the World Cup was inarguably the biggest highlight, several other moments stand out, especially from his limited-overs career. Most notable among them are the six sixes off Stuart Broad in the 2007 World T20, as well as the final of the 2002 series against England, where his 69 and stand of 111 with Mohammad Kaif, scripted a spectacular run chase for India.
From his Test career, his 169 against Pakistan in Bengaluru was noteworthy, as was the 85* in the emotionally-charged 2008 Test in Chennai, where India chased down 387 against England.
"I am extremely lucky to have played 400 games, wouldn’t have imagined doing this when I started playing," Yuvraj said. "Through the journey, the moments that stood out were the 2002 win, the Lahore Test hundred, the 2007 series win against England, and of course the six sixes, and the most memorable was the 2011 World Cup win."
Over the last few years, Yuvraj has made several comebacks, but none that has taken him to the heights of 2011 and before. His last, and perhaps most memorable return, came in January 2017 when he made a career-best 150 in the second ODI against England in Cuttack and shared another famous partnership, of 256, with Dhoni. During his last few months at the competitive level, Yuvraj was mainly involved in domestic cricket, which he played on and off.
Looking back on a rewarding career, Yuvraj took a moment to thank all those that have supported him through his journey, starting with his first captain, Sourav Ganguly.
"Thanks to Sourav Ganguly, I started playing with my idol, Sachin Tendulkar," he said. "I thank the selectors and Ganguly for giving me an opportunity in 2000, Chandu Borde, TA Sekhar and others. The support staff, who kept me fit, especially Nitin Patel and Ashish Kaushik, national coaches, IPL coaches and staff, groundsmen and others.
"This [the team with Zaheer Khan, Harbhajan Singh and others] is the batch that won the World Cup under the great captaincy of MS Dhoni, and the coaching of Gary Kirsten, who is the best international coach I have played with."