Book review on “THE TEST OF MY LIFE- FROM CRICKET TO CANCER AND BACK”

Yuvraj Singh is a professional Indian cricketer. He was born on 12th December 1981 in Chandigarh. He is also a cancer survivor. He is a son of an actor and former cricketer Yograj Singh. He debuted for India in 2000 at the age of nineteen. He was awarded as Player of the Tournament in U-19 Cricket World cup in 2000 and ICC World Cup in 2011. He was diagnosed with cancer in the same year and returned to international cricket less than a year after his diagnosis. He holds the record of fastest fifty in T-20 Cricket in just twelve balls. He is the most expensive player in the history of Indian Premier League(IPL). He was bought in 16crores by Delhi Daredevils in the year 2015. He was also awarded with the Arjuna Award in 2012 by the President of India and Padma Shri in 2014. Yuvraj got married to Bollywood actress Hazel Keech on 30 November 2016. He also owns a charity name “YOUWECAN” that has treated more than hundreds of cancer patients. In2007 ICC T-20 World Cup, he hit six sixes in an over of Stuart Broad against England. He was also honoured with Most Inspiring Sportsperson of the Year Award in February 2014.This is his first book.

About the Co-Authors

Nishant Jeet Arora used to play cricket with Yuvraj Singh from the time when they were thirteen. He is an honour winning television sports columnist, having worked with CNN IBN, NDTV, and Aaj Tak. He quit TV news coverage in 2011 to work with Yuvraj and is head of activities at Yuvraj Singh’s disease philanthropy YOUWECAN.

SHARDA UGRA is a senior editorial manager for ESPNcricinfo.com which is the world’s greatest autonomous single-sports site. She has been a sportswriter for a long time. She has been working with Mumbai newspaper Early afternoon, national every day the Hindu, and India Today Magazine. She has likewise worked with previous New Zealand player John Wright’s Indian Summers, which discusses his diaries of years training India.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                                 INTRODUCTION

Yuvraj Singh starts off the book by telling his dream that if he had a choice in his life he would never be a cricketer in his life.  He was a very much attracted to sport of every kind. The part of the school which was his favourite was out of the class. He liked to enjoy games period and recess. Books and studies never excited him. He was sent to a famous school Yadavindra Public School in Patiala. His dad used to visit him on weekends when he was there. One fine day his dad took him to Maharani Club and asked him to pad up. Navjot Singh Sidhu was present there at that time. He played some beautiful shots but also missed some of them. Sidhu gave some expert advice to his dad. After that his dad took him to the hostel back and muttered ‘Apna basta utha aur ghar chal. Ab main dekhta hoon ki tu kese cricket nahi khelta’(Pack your bag, we are going home. Now i will see how you don’t play cricket). He was always a prankster. He still is. Yuvraj was fastest in skating since he was five. When he was 11 he could run the race of U-14 and also win it. He was also fond of tennis which he could play for an hour without any break. He pretended to be like his hero Boris Becker on the tennis court. Boris had won Wimbledon at seventeen and he was someone Yuvraj wanted to be. Seeing this, his father bought a tennis racket of Rs 2,100. It is a decent amount nowadays. One fine day Yuvraj was defeated in a match. He got furious and threw the racket on the floor and smashed it. After continuous meltdowns he stuck to skating. In a week, he skated six days in a week and on Sundays he went to play cricket. His first memory of cricket has nothing to do it with his father. One evening, he was playing cricket with his friend outside his father’s old house in Sector 11. As he took a big swing of his bat, the bat flew in the air hit on a man’s head on the road and that man took away his bat, his favourite bat with which he used to hit big sixes. Yuvraj has also acted in his childhood in Punjabi movies, Mehndi Sajda Di and Putt Sardara. Cricket is a beast for him. He would have played many shots but he didn’t know where his leg stump was. He said “At thirteen I was thirteen, not Sachin paaji at thirteen. He was an exception.” After it didn’t work out his dad took him back to Chandigarh. His six days of skating turned into 6 days of Cricket and one day of skating and soon no skating. His dad wanted Yuvraj to be like him, fast balling all-rounder. In 1993, his dad sent him to Bishan paaji’s camp. Yuvraj used to bat at no. 8 and bowl medium pace. When Bishan Singh Bedi watched him bowling, he shouted “What are you doing? You cannot be a seamer. Go bat”. Yuvraj don’t think that Bishan paaji would have guessed that he would become a slow left arm spinner. In Bishan Singh Bedi’s camp Yuvraj scored first hundred of his life. When Yuvi was eleven years old he had won a gold medal in skating at the under-14 state tournament. His dad snatched his medal from him and said stop playing this girl’s game. Yograj, his dad took him to Sports Authority of India’s Pace Bowling Academy.  He told the trainees to bounce Yuvi all the time without helmet. This could take away his fear against fast bowling bowlers. Fast bowling didn’t frighten him anymore. When Yuvi was a teenager his parents started arguing and fighting. So, in order to drive away his mood from this entire situation he went to play cricket. His younger brother Zoravar who was just four years old couldn’t understand what was going on. The atmosphere was getting ugly in the house. His mom stayed away from the house to sort things out. Yuvraj was allowed to meet her only after the practice just for an hour. His dad also hated his signature of batting: hitting ball in the air. During a Ranji Practice match, he was out on 39 by hitting the ball in the air. His dad heard about his dismissal. He was so angry on him and told his mom, “Tell Yuvi not to enter the house or else I’ll kill him”. Yuvi’s mom made sure that he got the message. That night Yuvraj slept in his Maruti car parked in the Sector. Next morning when he found that his dad was not there. He went inside to eat the breakfast. Soon his dad returned when he was on the table. He picked up the glass full of milk and threw it on me. He debuted his first class for Punjab at the age of fifteen and was out on a beautiful 0 and also dropped a catch. His performance gave many guys the opportunity to score some points against his dad. Slowly, he felt more responsible and started making name for himself. When others scored 50, he used to score 100s and 150s. He faced Brett Lee and Jason Gillespie in his first game for India in 2000. He worked on his fielding. He was called a bad fielder on the basis of that one catch dropped in his Ranji debut. He got his first century in the Ranji Trophy against Haryana. Vikram Rathore, his captain at that time and he opened the innings and score 279 on the first day. They had a partnership of 180. This was the first time he had surpassed the score of 60. He scored 149 of 291 balls. That evening he was waiting for his dad’s call. When the phone rang he picked up the call and his dad asked ‘kya kiya’ Yuvi told that he scored a century and was waiting for the praise from his father but his father asked why didn’t you scored the double ton. Yuvi was deflated by this.  Two hours later he got another phone call. His dad said, ‘The keys to your Honda City, they are kept in your room and I’ve the car washed. You can drive it after returning back’. His first breakout performance came in Under-19 Cooch Behar Trophy final of 1999 against Bihar in which a small chapter called MAHENDRA SINGH DHONI was present. By tea on day 2, Bihar was all out on a score of 357. Then Yuvi’s team has batted. Yuvraj spoke to Amit Sharma that evening and told him that they had passed the total of Bihar. Amit asked how many runs did u get? I said 358. Amit was confused. Then Yuvraj clarified that yes that’s his score alone. Also Yuvi’s dad asked why he didn’t score 400. After Behar Cooch tournament he went to play Under-19 World Cup in Sri Lanka in 2000. In the finals of that tournament India defeated Sri Lanka and Yuvraj Singh was the Player of the Tournament and just after that he debuted for Indian Cricket team in the same year. He scored his first test century against Pakistan in 2003.

His first innings in ICC Cricket World Cup came in the second match of the tournament. In the first match of the tournament they defeated Bangladesh by huge margin. Lala (Virendra Sehwag) and Cheeku (Virat Kohli) scored centuries. The second group match was against England after the six days break. On the day of the game during warm-ups, he Yuvi was practicing on nets and found that he could not take his stance. His neck was jammed. This neck problem had started in Sri Lanka in 2010.When they returned back to India, he had an MRI which showed that a disc bulge between the C4 and C5 vertebrae. Now this time Nitin Patel (physio) was called. He tried to unlock it.  Yuvi felt so bad at that moment because he could not give any autographs to his fans. Moreover he was seriously worried about his fitness. Zaheer Khan to whom he calls Zack was beside him who was consoling him that it would be ok. Zak was Idea Baba for him. In January 2010 when Yuvraj broke his wrist in Bangladesh, Zak told him that this is just a small injury. That time Zak was talking about Cricket World Cup a year down the line. Zak said to Yuvi that he’ll win us the world cup and he will be the Player of the World Cup. The second match was against England. Sachin scored 120 and Yuvi scored 58. They had crossed up with a total of 338. In the end they tied the game. In the next match against Ireland, Yuvi made history by becoming the only player to take 5 wickets and score a 50 in a World Cup match. He followed this up with another 50 against the Netherlands. India met South Africa next, one of the strongest in the tournament. Yuvraj failed for the first time in the tournament and India lost their first match in the competition. This depicted the importance of Yuvraj in the team, he was the go to man, he fails and India loses. He became the projection of ‘Win’ for India. Yuvi bounced back in the next one, scoring his forst century against the West Indies. He writes in the book how it was the day of Holi and the whole country was glued to the TV, the amount of responsibility he had and the satisfaction of fulfilling that responsibility. India qualified for the Semi Finals and wer3 scheduled to meet Australia, the powerhouse of Cricket. The match was in Ahemdabad, in scorching 40 degree of heat, the heat of the quarter final adding to it. India chasing 261 were in a spot of bother when Yuvi came in. The match showed his determination more than anything, just not giving up. Vomiting blood on the ground, he rufesed to give up and put up an unbeaten 57 taking India to victory. He fell on his knees after the winning run, roaring in joy, the roar of a lion. This picture was later chosen as the ICC photograph of the year. The next match, touted as the mother of all matches, India versus Pakistan. World Cup Semi final. The match was in Mohali, Yuvi’s home ground. He was expected to fire, 1.3 Billion people’s hope on him. Hope however, is a cruel thing. Yuvraj’s middle stump went flying on the first ball he faced, the stadium was dead silent, and so were the hopes. This was a perfect piece of Yuvi’s life, a life full of ups and downs, of hopes and disappointment, but overall of failing and not giving up. He bounced back in the second innings picking up 2 crucial wickets and taking India towards victory. Yuvraj was one step away from the dream of his life, from the dream which would eventually become a reason his life could end. India played Sri Lanka at the Wankhede, and the rest, as they say is history. Yuvraj bowled, batted and fielded well as he had done throughout. India was the WORLD CHAMPIONS and Yuvraj was the Man of the Tournament. He cried a lot, on national television, and he smiled. He had something which no one could take away from him. The ultimate dream had been achieved; there was no struggle, no hopes, only happiness. He has written in the book how he wanted to win this for his idol Sachin Tendulkar, the guy he almost worshipped. He mentions an instance in the book where he says, “God can take my life but let me win the world cup”. He challenged fate, and fate accepted the challenge. 2 months after tge world cup he was diagnosed with a rare germ cell cancer. The X-Ray revealed an entire lung was overshadowed by the growing cells. He could not believe it, days after being on the top he was at the rock bottom. He gives an emotional description of how he went out in the rain after being diagnosed, letting thw rainwater wash away every feeling. As mentioned in the book’s preface, this is not only Yuvi’s story,  its a story of a woman who has “given birth to him twice”. It’s a story of motherhood, the purest thing in this world. Yuvraj and his mother left for London for further checkups. After the cancer was confirmed a sense of denial filled Yuvraj and his mother. The basic instinct of a person at any such instance is to blame luck, but Yuvraj proves how he is different from others. “When good things happened I did not put it on luck so how could I blame luck when bad things happened”. He remembered what he had done all his life, ‘Fallen dusted off and carried on’; he had to do it once more. 

The Institute for Cancer in Indianapolis is one of the leading Cancer institute’s in the world. Yuvraj was scheduled to undergo 3 sessions of Chemotherapy, each session being of 21 days and 7 day cool off period. Yuvraj writes how he calculated the days, 63 in total minus the last 7 days, so basically 57 days. That was 2 months, in 2 months Yuvraj could walk out of the hospital as ‘a man who never had cancer’ according to his doctor, which were the motivating words for Yuvraj. The striking point of the book is that the rather depressing topic of Cancer has been treated with a perfect mixture of humor, motivation and emotions. Yuvraj writes how there were good days, and then there were bad and worse days. Chemotherapy in itself is like being killed amd everytime those sessions kicked in Yuvraj had to go through hell. Yuvraj has thrown special attention on people who helped him in these times, from his manager Nishant, his cook,  team mates to every small fan who prayed for him. The therapy ended in 2 cycles rather than 3 due to unexpected improvement. Once more God had told Yuvi his lofe was unpredictable. Yuvraj returned back to India with an overwhelming reaction from the whole country. Without wasting any time Yuvraj got back to what he did best, trying. He started training at the National Cricket Association within a week after returning. He describes how his first day taught him something; he had a lot to go. Yuvraj couldn’t complete a single swim of a regular sized pool. However, he tried again and again and then, again. He improved and rather quickly. Within 6 months of returning from the cancer bed Yuvraj made his comeback in the Indian Cricket Team on the 18th of August 2012. Yuvraj Singh, the fighter was back. Yuvraj later mentions how his life before cancer was too much immersed into cricket but after the disease he realise cricket was an important part of his life, not his life. He set up the YOU WE CAN foundation, a cancer based help group. 

                                          

The book in a nutshell is a self told life story of a man who did not know how to give up. A story of a guy who taught us the meaning of determination and hard work. A story of a mother who declined God’s will. Story of a game which teaches us this dedication. However, overall it is a story of falling, dusting off and carrying on. 

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