He certainly looked out of sorts in the West Indies. So much so that Mahendra Singh Dhoni had to move him to fine leg from mid wicket, hoping that balls don't go to him that often. He was slow, jaded and a shadow of the past. In batting too he appeared lazy, the feet weren't moving and the match winner in Yuvraj Singh seemed all lost.
However, the Yuvraj Singh I met at his Gurgaon home on June 15 looked totally different. The focus is back; as is the determination. He has surely shed a few kilos and the slight bulge around the waist looks toned. Up early he had already done a fitness session when we caught up over nimboo pani. He wasn't in the mood for an interview and repeatedly kept saying that he wants to let his bat do the talking. I was delighted and relieved at his candid confessionï¿½he had a bad phase but the Tri colour on his chest is his most coveted possession. That is where he belongsï¿½the 22 yards in the middle and he is doing all he can to get back. It was inspiring to see him rise to the challenge rather than sounding depressed at getting dropped.
Talented cricketers, most of them in fact, reach a phase in life where they either turn the tables completely or disappear into oblivion. Yuvraj, the champion, is in such a phase of his career. The biggest-ever one day competition on Indian soil is just months away and India needs him to finish the games as also to lend solidity in the middle overs. His blistering sixes can get the fans to raise the decibels, so very necessary when you play at home. And to achieve all this, he first had to come to terms with it all in the mind. Having met him and spent three hours with him, I can confidently assert that he has made the adjustment and it is only a matter of time before we see the old Yuvraj Singh take the field.
After a rigorous three weeks at the NCA in Bangalore, which he claims has done him a world of good, he is currently playing in a domestic competition in Delhi. Time spent in the middle is always of value and Yuvraj, to his credit, has already notched up a superb 150 and a well-composed 70 against the likes of Ishant Sharma. All of these runs, he is right in claiming, are doing their part in getting him back to the groove after a disastrous season of injuries.
In hindsight, it appears that the selectors got it wrong in picking him for the world cup. Out of action with a broken finger, he rushed back to play the IPLï¿½a decision that was ill-timed. Not a single 50 in the 14 matches was indication enough that he wasn't in the best of form and the world cup was too big an occasion to risk him. We did take the risk and suffered the consequences. Since then, however, it has been a different story. He has had the time to self confess, talk to some of his mentors and realise that his talent is too precious to waste. And he is trying his best to make a comeback, a process that is painful for sure, but the rewards are only too huge, reason enough to endure the pain.
There's little doubt that he is one of the champions of the game and we need him in world cup 2011. And let me take a risk and say that from what I have just seen. I am confident that India will get back its match winner just when it matters the most. The jadedness has disappeared and the batting hunger is back. It will soon be time to unleash him yet again.