Yuvi is back and the fans are happy

Yuvraj Singh played his first international match, in Chennai, after recovering from cancer.-V. GANESAN

The hype surrounding the low-profile T20 event between India and New Zealand was an upshot of the ‘Yuvraj factor’. By Arun Venugopal.

Sporting comebacks are normally personal occasions best appreciated by — besides the person making his return — his teammates, admirers, and followers of the team or the sport. Very rarely do such comebacks have any greater connotation. Yuvraj Singh’s return, however, had an altogether different impact on the psyche of scores of people — sports fans or not, Indians or otherwise.

The hype surrounding the low-profile T20 event between India and New Zealand was an upshot of the ‘Yuvraj factor’. At Visakhapatnam, where Yuvraj was supposed to make his first international appearance since emerging victorious against a rare germ-cell cancer, rain played party-pooper.

So Chennai it was to be, the grand stage on which the 30-year-old would re-launch his career, a re-birth of sorts. But with the city receiving plenty of rainfall in the days preceding the second T20, there were naturally apprehensions of a washout.

New Zealand’s practice session on the eve of the contest, in fact, ended prematurely because of a sudden downpour.

But on the day of the match, the sky was clear, dutifully abstaining from dampening one of the most awaited comebacks. The fans, expectedly, were there at the M. A. Chidambaram Stadium in large numbers, demonstrating their unwavering support to Yuvraj.

PTI

Several foreheads were smeared with either ‘Yuvi’ or ‘Yuvraj’ even as posters and banners bearing the talismanic cricketer’s image were a common sight.

As Indian captain M. S. Dhoni elected to bowl, there was collective anxiety to see if Yuvraj would be the same dynamic presence on the field. Yuvraj's ‘first touch’, fielding at mid-wicket, prompted the crowd to let out a roar of approbation. Yuvraj was then posted at point where he made a diving stop; the cheers grew louder.

Soon, the audience was chanting ‘Yuvi…Yuvi..Yuvi’ when the man came on to deliver his left-arm tweakers. When he floored a tough return-catch offered by Brendon McCullum, fans gasped before applauding the effort.

Later in the night, during India’s chase, it wasn’t until the 11th over that people in the stadium were required to rise as one and accord a magnificent ovation to you-know-who.

Yuvraj’s innings had a hint of trepidation initially; the nip-and-tuck routine helped him find his bearings. Although, running between the wickets did seem a bit of a bother, it wasn’t long before he was unlocking those authoritative drives. Yuvraj, with a six off Daniel Vettori over long-on, took everyone on board the time machine.

With the game heading for a thrilling denouement, he continued to fight, stirring hopes of a fairy-tale finish. But Yuvraj was bowled with two balls remaining in the last over, his contribution 34 off 26 balls. The match may not have been won but Yuvraj, rightfully, earned himself plenty of laudation and heart-warming respect. Welcome back, Yuvi!