If everything goes to plan,Yuvraj Singh will be back in action, playing at least Twenty20 cricket for Punjab as and when the much delayed domestic season kicks off.
A little over a year after he announced his decision to retire from all formats of the game in June 2019, the dashing Punjab left-hander has rediscovered his zest and motivation for the game he graced with such authority for more than a decade and a half at the international level.
The Player of the Tournament at the 2011 World Cup spent a fair bit of time in the last few months working with the young Punjab quartet of Shubman Gill, Abhishek Sharma, Prabhsimran Singh and Anmolpreet Singh at the PCA Stadium in Mohali at the behest of the Punjab Cricket Association. It was during that period that, almost sub-consciously, he was sucked back into the vortex of playing.
“I enjoyed spending time with these youngsters, and talking to them about various aspects of the game, I realised that they were able to pick up various things that I was telling them,” Yuvraj, 38, told Cricbuzz on Wednesday afternoon, as he confirmed his comeback plans. “I had to get into the nets to show them a few other elements, and I was pleasantly surprised at how well I was hitting the ball even though I hadn’t held a bat for a really long time.”
Until the Punjab players’ off-season camp, Yuvraj had spent much of his time playing golf and tennis once the lockdown restrictions were lifted. “I also trained for those two months, and then I started to bat in the off-season camp. I made runs in some of the practice matches. Mr Puneet Bali, the secretary of the Punjab Cricket Association, approached me after one of the sessions and asked me if I would reconsider coming out of retirement.”
Bali’s logic was that since there were a lot of youngsters in the Punjab side, since they were already responding positively to Yuvraj’s guidance and suggestions, since the star himself was in good shape physically and was batting as well as ever, it was a win-win for all.
“Initially, I wasn’t sure that I wanted to take up the offer,” Yuvraj admits. “I was done with domestic cricket, though I did want to continue to play in other domestic franchise-based leagues worldwide if I got permission from the BCCI. But I also couldn’t ignore Mr Bali’s request. I gave it a lot of thought, for nearly three or four weeks, and it was almost as if I didn’t even have to make a conscious decision in the end.
“The motivation is to help Punjab win championships. Bhajji (Harbhajan Singh), myself, we have won tournaments, but we haven’t done it together for Punjab, so that was a big factor in my final call,” Yuvraj points out. “Obviously, Shubman is already playing for India, and I feel there’s plenty of potential in the other three boys. If I can contribute in any way to their development and to the development of Punjab cricket, then that will be wonderful. After all, playing for Punjab is what paved the way for my international career.”
Once he was convinced he could commit himself to ‘at least a couple of seasons’ with Punjab, Yuvraj dashed off a mail to BCCI president Sourav Ganguly and secretary Jay Shah, seeking their permission to come out of retirement. In his letter of last week, Yuvraj has made it clear that if he can play for Punjab again, he will obviously not pursue his options of playing outside the country. He has yet to hear back from the board. The letter seeking permission stemmed from the fact that he played for Toronto Nationals in the Global T20 in Canada in August last year, and for Maratha Arabians in the Abu Dhabhi T10 League last November.
“As things stand now, I will be playing only T20s if I get the nod,” Yuvraj observes. “But who knows, let’s see.”
The patented full swing of the bat sending the ball soaring way over long-on, now available only on film, could be on view in the near future if things take their natural course.