Former Indian wicket-keeper and Yuvraj Singh’s one of the closest friends, Ajay Ratra has stated that the all-rounder was an invaluable commodity for Indian cricket and his contribution has been immense. Among all innings, Ratra picked Yuvraj’s innings against Australia U-19 as his favourite one.
After a career that spanned over 17 years, Yuvraj Singh retired from international cricket with a host of records to his name. The only cricketer to have won ICC 50-over World Cup, World T20, U-19 World Cup, and now-defunct Under-15 World Cup, Yuvraj has been a part of glorious Indian cricket history.
While the statistics that he garnered over the years are the envy of many in World Cricket, Yuvraj will mostly be remembered for the sheer joy that he gave to Indian cricket fans and the way he ended a lifetime of hurt of winning a World Cup. Ajay Ratra, who played with Yuvraj Singh in the 2000 U-19 World Cup and then went on to play for India, stated that Yuvraj’s legacy was far more than the numbers that he put up.
“Yuvraj’s contribution towards the Indian team is immense as he was part of two World Cup winning teams, the 50-over World Cup and the T20 World Cup in 2007. In 2015, he was the man of the series as well. His contribution in the limited-overs format has been huge. However, more important than his scores or the wickets, it was the impact for which he would be remembered mostly for. Normally, he did it [batting] at a very good strike rate and when the team required him to do the difficult job,” Ratra told SportsCafe in an exclusive chat.
“Apart from that, after his recovery from illness, cancer and chemotherapy, it is not easy to even survive but he made a comeback to the Indian team which was a very commendable job and he scored his highest One-day score after he made his comeback after the illness. So all in all, his contribution towards Indian cricket is immense.”
Yuvraj was diagnosed with cancer which required a two-and-a-half month treatment in the USA. Although he returned home after completing his chemotherapy in April 2012, he was fairly confident to start playing again reasonably quickly. In August, he was named in India's squad for the World T20 in Sri Lanka and never stopped himself from working harder. Ratra applauded that never-say-die-attitude and gave him all the credit for his mental resolve.
“It is not easy to come back from that type of illness and play a competitive level of cricket and maintain that fitness level. So all credit goes to him, you know, his mental strength also and after he recovered from his illness, he had made a lot of effort on his fitness. He went to Italy I guess, for special training. I think he and Zaheer Khan had gone at the time for special training.”
After cracking a monstrous 358 for Punjab Under 19s in the much-talked-about Cooch Behar trophy final of 1999-00, Yuvraj Singh brought his swagger to junior international level by smashing an Australian attack comprising Mitchell Johnson, Paul Rofe, Shane Watson and Nathan Hauritz, and his innings remained a hinge point in his grown-up years and propelled his selection in the Indian team. Ratra, who played in the game alongside Yuvraj, stated that the innings was brutal in its own way.
“Once we were playing the U-19 World Cup in the year 2000 in Sri Lanka and we had a semi-final against Australia. The innings that he had played in the match, I still remember, he had scored something like 56 runs in 20 or 27 oddballs. Before that, he had been batting normally in the tournament and our score in that match was okayish but when he went and played that innings, and Australia had a very good team you know, they were the strong contenders in that tournament. He showed what he can do. So I still remember that innings, the way that he troubled the bowlers of that Australian U-19 team,” Ratra, who is a current NCA coach, said.