Spare Yuvraj of unfair criticism

Spare Yuvraj of unfair criticism

The unforgiving TV cameras zoomed in on Yuvraj Singh as he cut a forlorn figure on his way back to the dressing room after congratulating the Sri Lankans, who put paid to India’s dreams of winning the second World T20 title here on Sunday night.

Just over three years ago, the 32-year-old was the toast of a nation of a billion-plus people, having played a crucial role in India’s World Cup triumph. Rewind your memories to the 2007 World T20 and you will see the image of Yuvraj – the destroyer of bowling attacks. His six sixes off Stuart Broad still give goose bumps every time you see it on TV, no matter how many times you have seen it already. The Punjab batsman, however, presented a sorry picture of himself on Sunday, struggling to connect the ball, whether he was defending or trying to slog.

“Have we seen the last of Yuvraj?” asked a journalist at the Sher-e-Bangla stadium press box as the batsman holed out to Thisara Perera at long off after a scratchy 21-ball 11. The question was loaded more with disappointment than indignation.

Barring the knock against Australia when he showcased his vintage side with a 43-ball 60, Yuvraj has been the proverbial pale shadow of his past throughout the tournament. A cricketer’s confidence is best reflected in his fielding and Yuvraj spilling of some of the easier catches held a mirror to his state of mind.  
     
Given what the left-hander has come through in life – successfully battling cancer – to be even able to do what he loves the most, his disappointing batting in the summit clash may seem insignificant in the larger scheme of things but he would have also realised, if he already didn’t, that sport at the highest level can be merciless. It sucks as much out of a sportsman as it gives him.

The bouquets and brickbats come as a package deal, especially in a country like India where emotions often override reality. No sooner had India lost the final than news trickled into the press box in Dhaka that irate fans had pelted Yuvraj’s house in Chandigarh with stones. The Twitter community, expectedly, went into overdrive poking fun at the batsman. It’s one thing to criticise but quite another to deride a person. This is not the first time that ‘fans’ have resorted to stone-throwing of players’ houses or burning of their effigies. Rahul Dravid and Mohammad Kaif’s houses were targeted at the start of the 2003 World Cup in South Africa, leaving the players helpless and worrying about the safety of their family.

Indian skipper MS Dhoni had put things in right perspective at the start of the World T20.

“I know cricket is a big part of our lives but it is not the only life that we live,” he had noted. “Of course you feel disappointed when you are not doing well but still you know it is a sport, it is a game. There will be times when you will lose.”

The line between disappointment and rage often gets blurred when it comes to cricket in India. Just because you put a player on the pedestal following a good performance doesn’t give anyone the right to a violent reaction after a failure. Of course, the passion among the fans is what makes the game so big in India but it is also true that no one wants to win matches for the country more than the players themselves. If there is a feeling of being let down, it is a legitimate one but fans have to understand that it’s just a sport, and not a matter of life and death.

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