The 10th edition of the IPL kicked off with a bang in Hyderabad with the hosts sent in to bat by a Shane Watson-led Royal Challengers Bangalore. Shikhar Dhawan, Moises Henriques and Yuvraj Singh were all equally belligerent and are worthy contenders for the Player of the Day award but the SK vote for Player of the Day goes to the veteran Indian middle-order batsman, Yuvraj.
Yuvraj stepped in at the fall of the second wicket, that of Shikhar Dhawan, after a good looking second wicket partnership of 74 with Henriques. If Dhawan was powerful and forceful, Yuvraj proved to be graceful and stylish, relying on timing and placement.
A delicately flicked boundary off Sreenath Aravind got the southpaw into his groove. But his best was yet to come. In the next over the Yuvraj of old resurfaced.
Aniket Choudary, the IPL debutant was the unfortunate bowler. The southpaw got lucky when he inside-edged Choudary to the fine leg boundary. He made amends the very next ball by taking him on over a vacant long-off for six.
The next ball, a nothing short delivery, was crunched through mid-wicket as Yuvraj raced to 24 off 9 balls. The pressure got to the young man as he then delivered a wide, attempting a wide yorker. Yuvraj top edged the final ball of the over to deep fine leg but Aravind's butter fingers let through a sitter and Yuvraj survived.
The 2011 World Cup 'Man of the Series' wasn't content yet and smoked Aravind over square leg for another huge six, this one landing in the first tier of the stadium. Although Henriques got out in the next over, Yuvraj was in no mood to hold back. But he had a menacing bowler to content with, Tymal Mills.
Battle with Tymal Mills
The England left-arm seamer was picked by RCB for a hefty amount after his exploits in the T20 series against India. He had sheer pace and an unbelievably well-disguised slower ball. Mills had got the better of Yuvraj in the T20 series with the Indian finding his change of pace too tricky to handle. Despite his terrific form in the ODIs, he struggled to cope with the extreme variation in pace that Mills possessed.
Given the history, it was surprising that Watson did not give the Englishman a go when Yuvraj appeared to be in the mood. But in defense of the RCB skipper, Mills had looked jittery right from the start and a few misfields did not help his cause either.
Eventually, Watson brought on the pacer and the England seamer beat Yuvraj for pace with his first ball. The next ball, a misdirected short ball, was belted over mid-wicket by a rampant Yuvraj. The slower ball after that was also well read and dabbed for a single.
Yuvraj soon raced to his half-century off 23 balls, his first for Sunrisers Hyderabad and his fastest in the IPL, with a slap shot through point off Choudary. Mills' battle with Yuvi resumed in the next over with the batsman flicking a ball to the fine leg boundary.
A short delivery followed which the southpaw slammed with disdain over square leg for a massive six. Mills finally had his revenge in the next ball when a delivery at the stumps had Yuvraj hopping and sent the bails flying.
It was a memorable knock from the Indian middle-order batsman. Walking in at 93/2, Yuvraj ensured his team did not suffer due to the early loss of David Warner. He was quick to target the bowlers and played with the panache and flair that had made him a superstar.
His 62 came off a mere 27 balls and included some exhilarating shots all around the park. His 58-run stand with Henriques changed the complexion of the game and took Hyderabad to a 200+ total. Not once did he seem in two minds against Mills, whom he played extremely well till his dismissal.
The free flowing nature of his shots had Virat Kohli, who was on the sidelines, commenting to Sanjay Manjrekar, "Good for India in the Champions Trophy if he carries on that kind of form but not good for RCB now."
The SK Player of the Day is that man, Yuvraj Singh, for taking us all on a sweet walk down memory lane with his pick up shots and eye-catching pulls that helped the Orange Army hit the ground running in the tournament opener. As Warner said in the post-match presentation, "This is the Yuvi we all know".