Cancer wasn’t the only thing that nearly killed Yuvraj Singh; his dad came pretty close to it too, according to the cricketer’s new book, “The Test of My Life.” The book focuses on Singh’s battle with cancer, but it also sheds light on his upbringing and the path of his career, from meeting Sachin Tendulkar for the first time to being named player of the 2011 World Cup. His father Yograj, who played one Test and six One-Day Internationals for India in 1980-81, is an overbearing presence. He was instrumental in his son’s rise to cricket superstardom, but it’s hard to picture him as a kindhearted man. All he wanted was for his son to be a cricket star, and the regime he imposed to achieve this came at a cost.
“I was once out for 39, hitting the ball in the air and Dad got to hear about the dismissal. That evening he went back home and told Mom, ‘Tell Yuvi not to enter the house or I will kill him’,” Singh, now 31-years old, reveals early in the book, co-written by Nishant Arora and Sharda Ugra.
After spending the night in his car, the young Yuvraj crept home in the morning when he thought the coast was clear. But it wasn’t. His father stormed into the house. “I was terrified… Without warning, he picked up the glass full of milk on the table and threw it straight at me. It missed my head and broke the glass pane of the window behind where I was sitting. Then I received the full volley of his abuse. Most of it is unprintable but I remember in the middle of it he said that had I not been his son, he would have shot me.”
The book doesn’t shirk from describing his feelings, from the nerves he feels on the pitch to the dark thoughts he had in Indianapolis where he was treated for the rare germ cell tumor near his lungs. Singh reveals that he felt suicidal toward the end of the two-month treatment cycle, and shares his concerns about chemotherapy making him infertile.
This vicious temper eventually drove Singh’s parents apart, a separation that Singh’s younger brother Zorawar found particularly hard, according to the cricketer. Singh still loves his father, describing their relationship as “more like friends than father and son,” but there’s no doubt he was a difficult character.
Yograj wasn’t popular on the Punjab cricket circuit either, says the book, published by Random House India. “Everyone knew whose son I was… When I played a rash shot, they had seen Dad rip the non-striker’s stump out of the ground and fling it at me,” Singh writes. “Everyone in Chandigarh knew what he was about. No one messed with me because no one wanted to get into argument with him. At the same time, because I was his son, I got plenty of grief from people who had a problem with him,” he adds.
The strict approach of his disciplinarian father paid off for Yuvraj, who now has 40 Tests, 282 ODIs and 33 Twenty20 Internationals to his name. It is clear from the book that he desperately wants to add to that tally of Test appearances.
The book doesn’t shirk from describing his feelings, from the nerves he feels on the pitch to the dark thoughts he had inIndianapolis where he was treated for the rare germ cell tumor near his lungs. Singh reveals that he felt suicidal toward the end of the two-month treatment cycle, and shares his concerns about chemotherapy making him infertile. He also occasionally vents his frustration over fickle Indian cricket fans and the Indian media: “When teams like Australia lose they too are criticised at home but it does not get personal. What we get is full-blown character assassination.”
He tries to laugh this off, but is less forgiving toward two particular characters. One is a journalist and former friend who leaked that he had cancer; the other is a therapist who gave him acupuncture treatment even when it was clear that his condition wasn’t improving, and later didn’t hesitate about speaking to the media. “He went on a news channel and talked his face off on it… I saw this as more evidence of what the world had come to. Publicity-hungry people who were in a race to show off who knew more. People piggyback on you when times are good but they don’t let go even when you have cancer. Amazing,” he says.
Singh’s story, however, is an overwhelmingly positive one. He doesn’t dwell or hold grudges. Much of it reveals his admiration for his friends and team-mates like Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan and Tendulkar, and the people who treated him, including the head of the UY Simon Cancer Center in Indianapolis, Lawrence Einhorn, who had also treated Lance Armstrong.
The book explains how the drama of Singh’s cancer diagnosis unfolded, from his delayed decision to seek treatment and his health problems as he continued to play cricket, to holding secretive meetings with doctors and specialists, to discovering that he had a rare tumor called seminoma, which a doctor explained to him in typically Indian terms: “Your tumor may not be Sachin Tendulkar, but Virat Kohli it is. He can also be dangerous and after all you need to get him out.” Then Singh’s difficult journey moves into the public domain. His initial reluctance to tell the world about his cancer battle is gradually replaced by a sense of duty and purpose, a need to help others, most obviously through his charity YOUWECAN.
This turnaround was spurred by the support he received from people all over the world, and most of all in his beloved India.Singh’s story is far from over. This book winds down nicely with his return to the Indian team ahead of the T20 World Cup last year. He describes what it was like to be back on the pitch for a warm-up match against New Zealand. The game was rained off, but he was encouraged to leave the changing room and do a lap of honor.
“I wanted to embrace the stadium, every person in every stand who had stayed back… As I walked around, the Visakhapatnamcrowd got up from their seats as one and started clapping and clapping and clapping. As the sound of people clapping and cheering intensified, I thought my heart would burst.”
Source : WSJ