“Just couldn’t stay away from cricket.” For Yuvraj Singh, the passion for the game meant that he was going to back himself for a second innings. To come out of retirement was not a laborious exercise for the dashing cricketer who was Player of the Tournament when India won the 2011 World Cup.
His retirement last year was driven by a sad feeling of “not being able to play regularly.”
“I was not happy when I retired. I was sick of not getting opportunities,” he told Sportstar .
The pandemic actually paved the way for Yuvraj’s return to competitive cricket. He was busy at his personal gym at home in Gurgaon and then he trained for two months at the Punjab Cricket Stadium in Mohali with the youngsters from the state.
“Abhishek (Sharma) and Shubman (Gill) wanted to pick my brains and I was too happy to share my experience. It was a good opportunity for me to return to the cricket field. They were not able to pick the lessons and I had to then demonstrate in the nets. It became easy for them to understand what I was driving at and I realised they were also quick in grasping the lessons. Just a few technical adjustments but basically mentoring,” said Yuvraj.
Spending time in the nets with the youngsters led Yuvraj to indulge in some batting sessions for himself. He enjoyed knocking the ball around. “I started nets regularly and also played matches with the boys. I had looked at coaching and mentoring them even as I played more of tennis and golf to stay fit,” added Yuvraj.
When the PCA secretary, Puneet Bali, requested Yuvraj to reconsider his decision to stay away from cricket, Yuvraj spoke to his mother (Shabnam Singh) and wife (Hazel Keech) and was told to do what he loved most. “Initially I was reluctant to accept the PCA offer but then I wanted to play again. The feel of the bat was so good. It brought back some fond memories. I was hitting a few sixes in the matches and that is what I loved always, hitting sixes. I picked the bat, hit some sixes, and decided I will play T20 format which suits my game more now."
Reflecting on the five-year period before he retired, Yuvraj said, “I and Bhajji (Harbhajan Singh) made every effort to help Punjab win a title. It was hard work for both of us but things did not work. I was also not motivated to continue playing and that prompted me to retire. Now I think one can make an earnest effort to help Punjab win the T20 title. The team has some awesome talent and I am looking forward to contributing.”
Citing the example of Sachin Tendulkar, he said, “I have always looked up to him. Always benefited from his advice! He always told me that we played cricket because we loved the game. I have followed that process. I have loved cricket and it has been my platform to express myself. I am not going to follow his advice to just go out and play cricket.”
Admitting that he was “excited” at returning to the cricket field, Yuvraj said, “You can’t play cricket all your life but T20 is a brand you can play till 45. I will give myself one season and take a call. I will be a coach, mentor and a player. I want to do it for Punjab. It has given me so much.”
Yuvraj was also clear that he would not mind missing the foreign leagues. "I will obviously have to concentrate on Punjab. in any case, I can't play the foreign leagues according to BCCI rules and I don't mind it. My priority is to help Punjab."
Would he speak to Harbhajan Singh ? “I will certainly love to have him in the campaign with the youngsters to give Punjab a title. As far as I am concerned, I am just looking forward to picking up the bat and smashing some sixes. I have always loved hitting sixes,” Yuvraj, 38, signed off on a positive note.