“Cricket has given me everything I have and is the reason why I stand here today,” is Yuvraj Singh’s parting shot as he bids adieu to international cricket. He termed his association with the sport a “love-hate relationship”.
That give and take in the Yuvraj-cricket association is bilateral. He returned to the sport as much as it enriched him. His contribution to the sport has been as much on the field, as he has been an ambassador and servant of the game off the pitch. A charisma. An icon. An entertainer. A style statement. A philanthropist. A hope. A fighter. A medley of exceptional abilities that make him one of the biggest poster boys the sport has ever seen.
Much before a Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Virat Kohli would arrive at the scene, it was Yuvraj Singh who would come closer to cricket’s biggest icon Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar in commercial prowess. If association with Sachin would bring reliance, faith and trust to a brand; Yuvraj would be about flamboyance, youthful energy and charisma.
The entertainer who aerially despatched each of the six deliveries of a Stuart Broad over across the boundaries in that 2007 World T20 game was also about consistency. Else it was impossible to finish as the player of the tournament twice in India’s World Cup winning causes – ICC World T20 2007 and ICC World Cup 2011.
Today when he declares his innings once and for ever, he doesn’t quit just as one of the best talents of the game, Yuvraj Singh also goes down the history as one of the top ten richest cricketers. That epitomises the commercial prowess of this dashing left-hander. He quits the game as a ₹ 265 crore ($35 million) brand.
At the peak of his career, Yuvi represented brands like Ulysse Nardin watches, Reebok, Puma, Laurius Sports, Dornear fashion fabrics. He was of those stars whom headlines would follow beyond the boundaries. His link-ups with Bollywood Divas would stay as much in the news as the might of his willow. Eventually his life partner Hazel Keech comes from the cine world too.
When everything was going his way, life chose Yuvraj for its toughest tests. The crusader won the battle against cancer and emerged as the biggest symbols of hope. The battle with cancer has also changed Yuvraj as a human being. Ironically, though, even as he fought his way back into international cricket, he was not the same batter who would have bowlers at his mercy.
It was a matured, serious Yuvraj who would talk with authority about the life and its experiences. The market found value in this matured Yuvraj too as it would reflect in these lines from his Birla Sun Life Insurance commercial – “Jab tak balla chalta hai, thaat chalte hain. Warna ” (as long as your bat does the talking, you are on top of the world. Otherwise ). When he first said this in the Birla Sun Life Insurance commercial that dealt with the insecurities of life, Yuvraj Singh was entirely believable.
Stung by loss of form which even led to his ouster from the Indian Test cricket team, Yuvraj never was a lost case. Confidence and hope would follow him every time he would step out for that “bayen haath aka khel” (The left-handed game). His fall has been as big a learning as flamboyance his rise was. The man who once commanded biggest salary cheque in the Indian Premier League was compelled to slash his price tag beyond imagination and still not find a buyer.
But this Yuvraj has bigger goals in life. He has to live as a hope and support for millions of brave hearts fighting cancer. The human mission is much bigger than setting any targets in terms of runs and wickets.
He is an entrepreneur with a commitment to create a ₹100 crore YWC (YouWeCan) clothing line.
The Phoenix is set to rise again. There are bigger goals. There are bigger hopes.