The curtains have finally come down on the storied career of one of Indian cricket's biggest names Yuvraj Singh. To be fair, Yuvraj's international cricket career looked over for a long time. But his formal announcement drew a response full of adulation and nostalgia from his fans and even those who watched him as just another cricketer.
From the prodigious talent in 2000 to the battle-hardened veteran of 2019, Yuvraj has seen all types of phases in the 19 years that he has been involved with the game. Let us look at those 6 most important performances that turned Yuvraj into one of Indian cricket's most important figures.
Step 1: Player of the tournament in India's Under-19 World Cup win
It was in 2000 that Yuvraj first shone brightly on the landscape of Indian and international cricket. The platform he chose to make a name for himself was the ICC Under-19 World Cup. The Indian side was led by Mohammad Kaif, a player whose name would often become conjoined to that of Yuvraj for bringing a new era of ODI cricket in Indian team. Not only did India win this event but Yuvraj was the player of the tournament. He picked up 12 wickets in 8 games with two four-wicket hauls and scored 203 runs with two fifties. Yuvraj would soon be selected to play for India and 11 years later, would win the player of the tournament award again, this time in the main World Cup.
Step 2: Debut innings against Australia
Yuvraj made his international debut against Kenya in Nairobi during the ICC Knockout Tournament of 2000. But he didn't get to bat, that opportunity came in the next game, against the mighty Australians. Against a bowling attack that consisted of Glenn McGrath, Brett Lee and Jason Gillespie. Yuvraj ended up scoring 84 off just 80 balls and starring in his team's victory. This match was the beginning of a new era in Indian cricket and, quite aptly, featured one of the key persons in that era, Yuvraj, leading the way.
Step 3: 80* vs Zimbabwe in March, 2002
Despite the great start to his career, Yuvi repeatedly failed to live up to expectations for a long time. In 2001, he got dropped from the team but selectors kept faith in his ability. He came back into the Indian team for the fourth ODI against Zimbabwe in a 5-match home series. His splendid knock of 80* off 60 balls rescued India from a precarious situation and took them to victory. It was this knock that established Yuvraj back in the Indian team and he didn't look back.
Step 4: Tri-series final at Lord's, vs England, 2002
This match turned Yuvraj and Kaif into legends of Indian cricket. What the Kolkata Test of 2001 against Australia did for Indian Test team, this game achieved for Indian ODI unit. It was Kaif who played the leading part but Yuvraj's dashing knock of 69 off 63 and the partnership between the two turned the game around. The scenes of Indian team celebrating that victory make the pulse of an Indian fan rise even today.
Step 5: 2003 World Cup
India's performance in the 2003 World Cup was as good as in any other edition of the tournament. The only reason they didn't win the trophy was because of one of the greatest ever ODI teams in the history of the game. But what many people forget is the contribution of the 21-year old Yuvraj to his team's campaign. While everyone remembers the knock of Sachin in the match against Pakistan, few recall that when the Master Blaster got out, India still needed 97 runs to win. It was the solid partnership of Yuvraj with Rahul Dravid that took India home safely and denied Pakistan any chance of a comeback. Yuvraj scored 50 off 53 balls. He also rescued India from difficult situations in the matches against England and Kenya. Against the English side also, he had a great partnership with Rahul Dravid but this time played the second fiddle. Against Kenya in the Super Six stage, Yuvraj formed a partnership with 'Maharaj' Ganguly to take India to a victory. The boy had clearly become a man.
Step 6: 139 vs Australia at Sydney, 2004
This may well be the greatest innings of Yuvraj's ODI career. His 139 off 122 at Sydney Cricket Ground was an exhibition of his class, unsurpassed by any of his former knocks. The way he went after bowlers like Brett Lee towards the end of India's innings was breath-taking to behold. The man, now, was on his way to become a legend.