BANGALORE: That he was back to his best – in his first competitive game in almost four months - was frankly obvious in the manner that Yuvraj Singh constructed his scorching hundred: a watchful crawl to begin with, then a slight opening of the shoulders, and finally the unapologetic arrogance that has been the hallmark of this once-burly murderer of bowlers.
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“Just five years,” he quipped when complimented on having regained his youthful looks, “most people say I look at least ten years younger.”
“It has taken a lot of time for my body to heal, but it's getting better and better. Tim (Exeter) has done wonders for Zak (Zaheer Khan) and me. I shed weight, worked on my diet and lung capacity…I just wanted to get sharper on the field. I’m feeling stronger now and also quicker…those are the aspects we worked on. I also thank the National Cricket Academy who have played big part in my comeback.”
Lean and lithe after a gruelling six week-long stint with a European high-performance fitness trainer, Yuvraj on Sunday afternoon was without a boundary to his name in the first 38 deliveries he faced.
His half-century contained 36 runs gathered the hard way (singles and doubles), and at no point during the sedate section of his knock did he appear to dissipate into a shot of frustration.
“That’s how I usually bat…get to 30-35 and then increase the tempo. I am a middle-order batsman and my job is to guide the team to the end,” he added.
The sluice gates opened soon enough, as was expected, and when they did runs flowed like a cataract hurtling downhill.
Of his seven hits that cleared the ropes, one stood out, when, soon after reaching three figures, he picked up a Ronsford Beaton yorker from outside off-stump and sent it clattering into the lower wall of the media enclosure.
He credited the calming influence of a steady partnership with Mandeep Singh for providing him with a stable launch-pad.
“Once you’re batting with a set batsman, it allows you to play yourself in. The work put in by Robin (Uthappa) and Mandeep allowed Yusuf (Pathan) and I to cash in later.”
The 31-year-old, who has an eye on returning to India’s senior set-up, put forth a persuasive case for his inclusion, and said he wasn’t too perturbed by the new crop of talent staking a claim to his place in the team.
“It’s good that youngsters are doing well. It’s good to be challenged -- that brings out the best in me.”
After waging a successful battle against a rare germ-cell cancer soon after his memorable World Cup 2011 campaign, Yuvraj returned to India’s ranks for the Twenty20 World Cup and the home ODIs against Pakistan and England.
He was subsequently dropped as a nucleus of young players emerged, and, an insipid IPL later, Yuvraj spent his downtime wisely, getting back into a state of fitness that had eluded him even before he was stricken by the deadly illness.
"I had a back injury during this IPL and things just didn't go my way," he explained.
Having scored his first century in almost nine months, the southpaw chose to count his blessings, rather than dwell on the future.
“I got an opportunity to play, that’s a big thing for me. I’m just happy I scored some runs. Hopefully, I won’t have to wait as long for my next hundred.”
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