NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Yuvraj Singh issued a reminder of his enduring quality with a match-winning fifty in the Indian Premier League opener on Wednesday, saying he was batting with more freedom after his international recall.
The architect of India’s 20-overs and 50-overs World Cup triumphs in 2007 and 2011 spent three years in the international wilderness until the start of the year, battling poor form and a cancerous condition in his lungs.
The 35-year-old made a return to the one-day team for the home series against England in January and went on to score his highest ODI score of 150 in the second match in Cuttack.
Wednesday’s innings was particularly timely as India selectors mull their options for June’s Champions Trophy in England.
The familiar high back-lift and clean-striking were on full display as the all-rounder blasted 62 off 27 balls to help secure Sunrisers Hyderabad’s 35-run victory over Royal Challengers Bangalore.
“The comeback into the Indian team has really helped me,” Yuvraj told the tournament website.
”I am more free in my mind and I am not worrying anymore about making a comeback. I am just going to play according to the situation and express myself.
“My batting has been up and down over the couple of years, but I am feeling really good at the moment. I just need to continue this good run forward.”
His knock was particularly timely as ahead of June’s Champions Trophy.
Moises Henriques also chipped in with a fifty as Hyderabad, led by fellow Australian David Warner, made a winning start to their title defence.
“When I walked out to bat, I just told Henriques that I am going to take a few balls and then go for my shots,” Yuvraj said.
“But, the first two balls hit the middle of my bat and I told him that I was feeling good and I am going to take my chances.”
Warner was naturally excited and said Yuvraj’s form could be crucial to his team’s chances of reaching the May 21 final.
“That’s the Yuvi that I used to watch on TV,” Warner, a hard-hitting batsman himself, said.
“Superb strokeplay, hitting it clean. He backed himself, that’s the way we know he can play and that’s the way we want him to keep playing.”
Importantly, the knock caught the eye of India captain Virat Kohli.
“The priority is Indian cricket,” said Bangalore skipper Kohli, who is recovering from a shoulder injury.
“He got a hundred against England (in Cuttack) and also got runs in (the third ODI in) Kolkata. The confidence has just rubbed off.”
Reporting by Amlan Chakraborty; editing by Nick Mulvenney