“More strong mentally, much more positive, more religious....” That, in his own words, is the Yuvraj Singh of today.
The smile is back. As is the hair on the 30-year-old’s pate, which had fallen off during the three cycles of chemotherapy in the US.
Having successfully fought against a rather rare form of germ cell cancer, Yuvraj is focused on two things: making his India comeback (which should be in Vizag on September 8) and spreading awareness through YouWeCan, set up by the foundation which bears his name.
After over six hours of sweating it out at the National Cricket Academy here, Yuvraj spent around 20 minutes in the pool at the luxurious ITC Gardenia. The day’s training complete, he spoke to The Telegraph over tea and sandwiches.
“I’ve got my life back; this is a fresh innings.... Earlier, I’d only pray in temples; now it has become a daily ritual... thanks to my Guruji, who has given me some prayers to recite, and my mother (Shabnam)....
“It’s not that I pray for very long, about 10-12 minutes.... But, yeah, I’ve definitely become more religious....
“I’d always been the positive type, but my illness has made me much more positive. As I’ve told you, I’ve got my life back....
“Of course, I’m more strong mentally as well. For three-four months, I had to fight it out both physically and mentally.... I managed to do so.”
Yuvraj is off medication but will need quarterly check-ups. The next is due in September.
“For now, I won’t have to travel back to Indianapolis.... The scans are going to be done in India and emailed to Dr Lawrence Einhorn there. I haven’t been given a formal list of dos and don’ts, but I’ve become regular with my eating and try to sleep early,” Yuvraj said as a fellow guest at the deluxe property congratulated him on his recovery.
Briefly turning emotional, Yuvraj remarked that he “wouldn’t” have survived had a fourth cycle of chemotherapy been necessary.
“Chemotherapy is painful.... My body had gone by the time the third cycle came and I had to be admitted to hospital (Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Centre) for the final five days.... There were times when I was on a wheelchair and I wouldn’t have survived a fourth cycle.... I would surely have died....”
For a minute or so, neither of us spoke.
Yuvraj then reached for his cup of tea and continued: “I consider myself blessed.... God has been kind; I’ve got such a wonderful mother, so many well-wishers.... Now, I want to spread awareness, do my bit for others....
“If I can fight cancer, so can you.... YouWeCan is for that and our first centre should open (in Gurgaon) in December.... The stigma attached to cancer has to go away.... Early detection holds the key and I’m a living example.”
Yuvraj acknowledged that confirmation of cancer came after tests in London, with Dr Peter Harper being brutally frank about his condition.
That was in late December last year and in early 2012. For Yuvraj, it seems ages ago.
As reported in these columns, Yuvraj’s story of courage is being put together in the form of a book, expected to hit the stands in December.
The staff at the academy have, by the way, been bowled over by Yuvraj’s determination.
“Yuvi’s amazing.... Gym, running, nets, high catches, ground fielding... the guy’s doing everything,” one of the astonished seniors told this reporter.
Player of the Tournament in the 2011 World Cup, Yuvraj is himself “tense and excited” at being mere weeks away from again playing for India.
“Look, I don’t know what will happen.... Don’t know how I’m going to fare, but I’m just happy.... I couldn’t even think of again playing when cancer was diagnosed.... Yet, here I am talking to you....”
Yuvraj needn’t worry. Irrespective of the runs he scores on his comeback, the world already sees him as a winner.