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As a child, cricketer Yuvraj Singh was very fond of tennis. It was his father Yograj Singh, who enjoyed only a short international cricket career, pushed him towards the sport to complete his unfulfilled desires. Over the years, Yuvi (as he is lovingly called) developed a liking for cricket and ended up being one of the most treasured players in the Indian cricketing history.
Playing for Passion or Out of Habit?
Though the sport came naturally to him, adapting to the disciplined routine was not an easy task. “Initially, it was not a passion and I was going on with it because I some what liked the game. But, when I decided to take it as a profession, it came with a lot of pressure and responsibility and my love for the game started fading,” he says.
At this cross section, Yuvi took time off to understand whether he was playing the sport for the passion or out of a habit. Eventually, he waded away the negativity and took it up as a career. Singh says, “I stopped listening to what people were saying about me playing cricket and realized that I was doing it because I liked it. I decided to concentrate on my game, deleting the negativities around it.”
Star of Cricket
Talking about when it became a serious play for him, Singh says, “I actually gave it a thought when I started playing for the Under 19 team.” In no time, Yuvi became the star of cricket. Change in the selection policy played a big role in hand-picking young players like Yuvi, Virendra Sehwag, Mohammad Kaif, Zaheer Khan and Mahendra Singh Dhoni for the Indian cricket team. This team, under the leadership of Sourav Ganguly, reached the finals of 2003 World Cup. It marked the beginning of the golden age of Indian cricket. And, Yuvi grew with the team.
As the Vice-captain of the Indian team, he became one of the top performers at the 2007 ICC World Twenty20. In a match against England at the 2007 World Twenty20, he famously hit six sixes in one over bowled by Stuart Broad.
And in 2011, he was named as the Man of the Tournament in the World Cup. His personal life remained maligned with controversies and he was regularly linked with Bollywood actresses like Kim Sharma, Riya Sen and even Deepika Padukone. Soon such high moments saw the biggest low of his life, when in 2012 he was diagnosed with cancer.
Sharing the unfortunate moment, Singh says, “I had dreamt to complete the 100 test match mark but when I finally got opportunity to play test matches regularly, I was diagnosed with cancer.” That feeling of falling to the ground after reaching the zenith was the darkest part in Yuvi’s life.
It was hard to come to terms to the fact. Sharing his first reaction once diagnosed, he says, “I was not able to come to terms with it because initially, I did not believe it. I led a very healthy lifestyle.” Yuvi continued to play cricket but his health continued to deteriorate. “I started going for regular checkups,” he adds.
Determined to Bounce Back
As a strong man, Yuvi was determined to get well soon and go back to the field. He went to the US, where he got treated at the fourth stage. His mother was the constant support during the six-month treatment. One of the cherished moments of this time was when Sachin Tendulkar visited him in the hospital. “It was a difficult time for me to survive. Those days, I was not able to breathe through my left lung. Some days, I wasn’t able to eat properly because of the tumour.” shares Singh. It took him 18-24 months to get his body back on track.
But, everyone doubted him as a cricketer this time. Entry to the team was not difficult but his performances remained low key. The critics started writing him off. When life threw the biggest bouncer, he scored a six, Yuvi says, “Never give up on your dreams, because dreams are what that take you ahead in life to combat the hurdles.”
Soon he got back to the field with much enthusiasm and zeal. The rejuvenation of his soul helped him bounce back to the same pavilion. The IPL saw the T-20 king becoming the hot favourite among the franchises.
As an Entrepreneur
In his effort to spread peace and harmony across, Yuvi came out with the YouWeCan foundation to help people fight back cancer. As an entrepreneur he recently launched his first fashion venture YWC Fashion, mostly to support YouWeCan. Suditi Industries will license and manufacture the brand. As an investor too, Yuvi has invested personally in 10-12 start-ups but right now he is more focused on the fashion line.
Talking about it, he says, “The bigger issue we face in society is that a lot many do not have the money for treatment, once diagnosed with cancer. So we wish to remove that stigma from their minds that cancer is not curable.” Currently, the brand is selling through an omni-channel mode with 105 selling points. The first exclusive store has come in Varanasi and the next one would be coming out soon. Though the financials of the business are handled by the CEO, Yuvi takes special interest in the designing part, giving it a more athletic look.
(This article was first published in the September 2017 issue of Entrepreneur Magazine. To subscribe, click here)