This week has been truly special for the Punjab all-rounder. At a whopping Rs14 crore price tag for IPL-7, he was picked up by Royal Challengers Bangalore owner Vijay Mallya on the insistence of skipper Virat Kohli. That it followed a berth in the T20 world championship squad made it truly special for the southpaw.
If numbers are to be believed, Yuvraj’s Rs14 crore signing has brought him into the bracket of football stars Mesut Ozil (Arsenal), Steven Gerrard (Liverpool) and Juan Mata of Manchester United. In fact, Yuvraj’s weekly salary of £171,348 surpasses those of these English Premier League bigwigs, who fetch £140,000 per week each.
A year ago, all this looked far from being a reality. The ever-smiling and exuberant Yuvraj seemed in danger of fading away, as he struggled for form. Out of the India team, he turned to the IPL, only to end up with a meagre 172 runs in 10 matches with a top score of 34. Pune Warriors’ decision to replace him did not come as a surprise.
So why exactly did RCB cough up such a staggering amount for Yuvraj? In the past, former players have often linked Yuvraj’s dip in form to that of lack of strong leadership at the top. His technical or tactical acumen, or his commitment has never been questioned.
”When he has done well for India, he has been strongly led by players like Sachin Tendulkar, Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Rahul Dravid. With someone not there to guide him around, he sulks a bit and does his own thing. To control him, you need a better, superior player,” was former Australia batsman Dean Jones’ view after IPL-6.
Yuvraj too agrees that he will do well with the Bangalore franchise. “Everyone is talking about my being the highest-paid player and being bought for so much at an auction, that also means that there is a lot of focus on you and on how you have to win matches, it adds responsibility,” says Yuvraj. “In RCB, we’ve got a lot of guys who are match-winners... It’s a great bunch. It is great that in that kind of environment, I can go and express myself.”
Besides his cricketing talent, Yuvraj has always been a fighter. His battle with cancer post the 2011 World Cup was one of the toughest periods of his life, but in the end, he emerged stronger. A video shot during his recovery days in the United States — when he vomited blood and had lost all his hair —shows him tying a cloth on his head to hide the baldness. When asked what he was doing, Yuvraj responded with a quip: “Sehra baandh raha hun, shaadi jo karni hai.” Clearly, even the darkest of period could not take away his resolve, and more importantly his ability to laugh at himself. He always searched for the silver lining.
Now, Yuvraj is ecstatic about joining the explosive line up of Virat Kohli, Chris Gayle and AB de Villiers. Hours after he was picked for the franchise, he tweeted to his RCB teammates, “What time’s the Gangnam?” The party is about to begin, yet again.