Yuvraj Singh's 9 Sixes vs. Delhi Daredevils in IPL 2014: The Message Is Clear

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Yuvraj Singh's 9 Sixes vs. Delhi Daredevils in IPL 2014: The Message Is Clear
Gareth Copley/Getty Images

The bowler, medium pacer Rahul Shukla, charged towards him from around the wicket. Shukla had been the most effective bowler in the opposition, getting rid of the explosive Chris Gayle early and conceding just 14 runs in his first three overs. Coming in to bowl the last of the 20 overs, the bowler's team, the Delhi Daredevils, expected a calm, quiet one.

Yuvraj Singh had other ideas.

The ball came in as a half-volley wide of off-stump from around the wicket. Within microseconds, he locked in on the target and processed the type of shot he wanted to play.

He almost went down on his back knee and swiped under the ball. He watched as it sailed high over the point fence and into the welcoming sea of red in the stands.

A glance at the scoreboard revealed that he had reached his half-century—off just 24 balls. As the crowd screeched out his nickname—"Yuvi! Yuvi! Yuvi!"—he raised his bat, parallel to the ground, but pointed towards his team's dugout.

With a nod of the head, his eyes fixed on the dugout, he kept his bat pointed towards his teammates for a few seconds. He did not acknowledge the crowd, even as the chants transformed into electrifying repetitions of "Singh is King!"

Just over a month ago, he had struggled his way to a painful 11 off 21 deliveries playing for India in the final of the ICC World T20 against Sri Lanka at Dhaka, Bangladesh. Back then, the fans hadn't chanted his name. Far from it.

Instead, they went ahead and pelted his house with stones. The fact that he had won two World Cups for them earlier had magically been erased from their memories.

They mocked his Indian Premier League franchise, the Royal Challengers Bangalore, for shelling out $2.3 million for his services. A half-century in the first match of the IPL quietened them for a while, but they were back at their vocal best as he managed just 92 runs from the next seven games, even as his team struggled along with him.

More than anger and frustration, it was pity that was showered on him. The 32-year-old's long and successful battle with cancer following the success of the 2011 World Cup campaign had gripped the entire nation and the cricketing world.

They cheered for him when he had fought death away and survived. They cheered his return to the Indian team. However, when he failed to reproduce the prolific results from the past, there was only one reaction: Poor dude, he should just retire.

He persisted, and on May 11, playing against the Rajasthan Royals, he brought out glimpses from his glorious past. He scored 83 runs from just 38 balls, including seven fours and as many sixes. He followed it up with four wickets with the ball, capping what should have been a brilliant all-round match-winning effort.

 

Only, it wasn't to be a match-winning effort.

The opposition stuck in and chased down 191, and almost cruelly stole his thunder. More pity.

Coming to Tuesday's match, he walked in at 94 for three in the 13th over. His first boundary was an unconvincing one, off an outside edge. His first 10 runs took him 11 balls to score. But in the 16th over, he brought the time machine out.

The M Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore was transformed into Kingsmead, Durban, circa 2007— almost. Spinner Imran Tahir all but assumed Stuart Broad's role as he whacked him for three consecutive sixes.

The Singh of 2007 had hit six sixes in a single over. Seven years later, he decided to do it a little differently and even went one-up on his younger self.

In the last over of the innings, while bringing up his second consecutive fifty, he smashed Rahul Shukla for four sixes off as many legal deliveries, taking his team to 186 for four. His individual contribution read 68 off 29 balls, with one four and nine sixes. Nine.

Throughout his action-packed innings, he barely moved a muscle on his face, shielding any emotions in his mind from the outside world. But his raise of the bat towards the dugout and acknowledgement of only his teammates said more than any charged fist-pump.

His name was back in the chants of the fans, he had sent Twitter into overdrive and he knew that his pictures would be splashed across the media, coupled with words of extreme praise, a frame-by-frame breakdown and analysis of his nine sixes and comparisons with 2007.

But did it matter? Probably not.

In the post-match presentation, opposition skipper Kevin Pietersen said that he had batted like "an absolute superstar. He has proven a lot of people wrong." His own captain, Virat Kohli, who had backed him even after the World T20 final last month, reiterated that he had put doubters and all doubts to rest.

Those were the words that probably mattered: from his peers and his teammates, who had stood by him all along.

While accepting the Man of the Match award, he said that he kept believing in himself and was backed by his seniors, before going on to thank the owner of his franchise for "bringing me over here"—for bringing him over there, when everyone else had given him the ditch.

It is quite possible that his apparent snub of the fans is an exaggeration, a concoction of this writer, who has no access to the player's mind and emotions, and even the happenings off-camera.

But that unwavering, resolute and stony-faced look as he acknowledged his dugout struck a chord and seemed to convey a message.

He has seen it all in his 14-year career. The same fans who were chanting his name could as easily boo him the very next day or, worse, pelt his house with stones. The same editors and journalists who filled up their pages with flowery words describing his last two innings could as easily spew vitriol after a couple of ducks. The same Twitter, which was trending with his name in a positive manner, could as easily be flooded with jokes on his slump.

His reaction on Tuesday would have you believe that he's learned to bypass all of this. What matters to him is what he believes in and that his teammates believe in him. His emotionless reaction seemed to convey only one message:

It isn't easy being Yuvraj Singh. You don't want to try.

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