'I have more memories of time under Sourav because of the support he gave me. I didn’t have that kind of support from Mahi and Virat,' was the statement from Yuvraj Singh to Sportstar a couple of days ago. While he may have done a classic comparison of style, there was more to it than meets the eye.
Yuvraj is a superstar of the game and his legend is beyond the numbers he has accumulated in his 16-year-long international career. It was about the women and men he inspired with his dazzling batting display, it was about the dreams he fulfilled - at times almost single-handedly - and it was also about lifting the country’s collective morale with one bloody good catch at backward point. Yuvi meant so much for so many people and the reason behind the same was the runs he had accumulated during his playing days under Rahul Dravid and MS Dhoni. Well, I really can’t ignore the 150 he scored against England - his highest ever ODI score and the last-ever century - under Virat Kohli’s leadership too.
Taking no credit away from the way Sourav Ganguly managed the team and especially backed Yuvraj in the last few years of his captaincy career, but facts can’t be ignored for emotions. Yuvi played under Ganguly the most in his 304-match career, between 2000 and 2005, scoring at an average of 30.69 and an SR of 86.47 - and the indexes are generously lower than what he averaged under Dravid and Dhoni. Of course, I will come down to the backing part but let’s understand his career first which is as complex a case-study as Dhoni’s approach in an ODI run-chase.
In the truest sense, Yuvraj’s career is a classic mix of two phases - a) the period between 2005 and 2011 b) everything else in either side of those two years. Before the start of 2005, the southpaw averaged only 29.86 from 98 innings, while after 2011, he averaged 27.08 in 26 innings. An average of 42.93 in the six years in between made him the superstar that we know him to be and know what? He played a total of 20 matches under captains whose name is not either MS Dhoni or Rahul Dravid - the duo led him in 143 games during that time. That six-year period also saw him rise as a match-winner for India with his 57.25 average only being bettered by MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli, with the filter being a minimum of 1500 runs during the period.
Now that we have established that he had his best time under Dravid and Dhoni, now let’s examine his recent statement about backing. Coming to the World Cup, in the period between 2010 and February 2011, Yuvraj averaged a modest 27.50 at an SR of 69.73 - crossing the 50-run barrier only three times. But Dhoni backed him to perform on the most important stage of all, with Yuvi responding with 362 runs at an average of 90.50 and 15 wickets to go with that. It was a generation-defining performance but his career went on a slide majorly thanks to his battle with cancer.
Post his cancer come back, it was never the same Yuvi, but he continued playing for India for the next six years, with three T20 World Cups - 2012, 2014, and 2016 - along with the 2017 Champions Trophy. If after all that, Yuvi, who averaged 27.08 in ODIs and 25.41 in T20Is between 2012 and 2017, says that he wasn’t given enough backing, it was ungrateful, to say the least. What is even more damning is that the 2014 T20 World Cup final loss was the direct product of Yuvraj failing to counter Lasith Malinga and Nuwan Kulasekara in the fateful final and wasting many balls in the process. And still, Dhoni got him to play the 2016 T20 World Cup, where his tired legs had caused Virat Kohli much frustration.
When MS Dhoni announced his resignation from limited-overs captaincy in the first week of January 2017, leaving Virat Kohli to handle the affairs, Yuvraj got enough backing from the newly-appointed full-time skipper of the side. So much so that he repaid with a memorable partnership with MS Dhoni in Cuttack but returns had dwindled thus after. In the subsequent nine matches for India in ODIs, the left-hander managed to cross the 50-run mark only once - in the Champions Trophy game against Pakistan in Birmingham. India had to look beyond and prepare for the World Cup - for which getting rid of Yuvraj Singh didn’t just become an option rather a necessity.
It was all for good. Yuvraj, who always thought himself as India’s next captain-in-waiting during the Rahul Dravid era, even though Virender Sehwag was the designated vice-captain, had his reasons to feel disappointed for so many things or like many Yuvi fans, he can actually bask in the afterglow of those surreal moments of Indian cricket but statements like the one he delivered a couple of days ago, in reality, don’t do any goods to his own reputation. It was damning in every sense.