In an interview for Rolling Stone, Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich said “we were just kids” when reflecting on the 30 year anniversary of their seminal album Master of Puppets. The innocence and primitive of youth is very freeing, before the lead weight of expectation and stardom take over.
That’s what they were, just kids, when they took on the world in 2007. We were all younger, if not young. That’s what we all were, naive and optimistic, not knowing whether to take the format seriously. But when has a little optimism ever hurt?
The scars of the first round exit in the 2007 50 over World Cup were still fresh and everyone tempered their their expectation levels accordingly. The side won a thriller in a bowl out against Pakistan in their first match and then lost to New Zealand in the second.
Then came the encounter against England. At the end of the 18th over, India had already galloped to 171. In the final stretch they did a Usain Bolt.
Yuvraj Singh was doing a Moses act and walking on water. He struck Andrew Flintoff for a couple of boundaries. After the over, he made the effort to walk up to him and have a few words. Yuvraj and Dhoni exchanged a punch with their gloves and Yuvraj walked towards Flintoff who was beating a hasty retreat. Dhoni made no effort to stop him and it looked like Yuvraj was ready for a duel then and there. The umpire ran behind Yuvraj, trying to reason with him not to go forth with whatever he was thinking about.
Stuart Broad came on to bowl.
Yuvraj smashed the first delivery in the cow corner region. It felt like it touched a star and careened back towards earth. 111 metres the ticker said. Who cared? How did it even matter?
Second delivery Yuvraj got down on his knees and casually flicked the ball over mid-wicket. Six.
The camera panned to Flintoff who may have as well been looking for a crater to materialise so that he could disappear into it. If he had a crystal ball, he may have as well fled the field feigning injury.
Third delivery, Yuvraj against went for a big one and till the camera stuck with the ball, you thought it would be caught. It sailed over the boundary rope, into safety. And another six.
Stuart Broad came around the wicket and bowled what seemed like a wide full toss. Yuvraj Singh didn’t spare even that, smashing it over point for another six.
Kingsmead exploded. Could Yuvraj pull off a heist of epic proportions? A few months back, Yuvraj Singh himself had been carted for 5 sixes in an over by Dmitri Mascahrenas. It was payback time.
Fifth delivery and Yuvraj Singh again went down on bended knee and smashed it over mid wicket region. Ravi Shastri announced the result and then waited to confirm it. Lucky for him, he was right.
Kingsmead was coming apart at the seams.
Final ball of the over and Yuvraj went down on his knees one last time and heaved towards the long on region. Ravi Shastri again jumped to a conclusion and had to wait for the ball to cross over to heave a sigh of relief.
It wasn’t just Yuvraj Singh who exploded on the magical, never-before, never-again kind of night.
T20, which had been viewed with a certain amount of skepticism and kept at an arm’s distance, was suddenly held in a tight embrace. No one wanted to let go.
No one will forget that night. The night t20 went from long distance relationship to a head over heels kind of love.
It was a night of reckless optimism, one we have all been searching for ever since.
It was the night Yuvraj Singh heralded a new dawn.