If England’s players raise their heads upon entering the Mohali clubhouse ahead of tomorrow morning’s fourth ODI, the first thing they will spot is the local boy in the photograph. Thinner of face, blacker of hair but unmistakably Yuvraj Singh.
Head back to the future and the picture of the Chandigarh’s favourite son turned World Cup winner fades from focus. Yuvraj’s sliding doors moment occurred at the age of 10 or 12, depending on which schoolfriend’s memory has served them better.
The when is unclear but the where is certain. Jai Singh, no relation but a contemporary from the DAV Public School in Chandigarh, had been watching his friend compete in a state ice-skating competition at the Sector 10 rink.
“Yuvi won golds at that event,” recalled Jai. “He was a great skater. I remember the next day he was angry because his dad had thrown away his medals and said to leave skating for good.”
Yuvraj’s father Yograj Singh was a pace bowler who played one Test for India. In 1977, he was selected ahead of Kapil Dev for an India U-22 side to face England at Nagpur. After reaching the national team in 1981, he disappeared from cricket; until his unsatisfied sporting ambitions found an outlet in his talented son.
Triple Salchows became triple centuries as Yuvraj’s performances for the Chandigarh U-16s led to an invitation to the Vengsarkar Cricket Academy in Mumbai and from there to the Bishan Singh Bedi Academy in Delhi. Sukhwinder Bawa coached the 18-year-old Yuvraj at state level and recalls one such triple century.
“We were playing a Bihar team that I am sure featured Dhoni,” recounts Bawa, “they made 357 and then Yuvi spent the next two days making 358 all on his own, I lost count of how many sixes.”
Across the road from Yuvraj’s old school lies the Chandigarh Lawn Tennis Club. President Avtar Singh Makker grew accustomed to Yuvraj’s sixes, so much so that he too lost count, “Yuvi was a good tennis player but the only I time I saw him was when he came to fetch cricket balls that had dented my courts.”
Yuvraj, who famously hit Stuart Broad for six sixes in one over, owes his hometown some maximums, in the four ODIs he has played at the Mohali ground he has never once cleared the ropes. If he changes that today, Mr Singh Makker says all will be forgiven.