However bad the times were, India's 2011 World Cup hero Yuvraj Singh never stopped believing in himself even if the world gave up.
"Trust me I never stopped believing in myself, no matter what the world said. Believe in yourself because if you put your heart & soul in to it you can achieve the impossible," Yuvraj told a packed media gathering after calling time on his illustrious career in which he played 40 Tests, 304 ODIs and 58 T20Is.
Arguably, one of the greatest players to have donned the blue in white-ball cricket, Yuvraj was diagnosed with mediastinal seminoma, a germ-cell tumour located between his two lungs just after he helped M.S. Dhoni-led India clinch their second World Cup on home soil.
Yuvraj, now 37, hit four half-centuries and a century, while also picking up 15 wickets -- including a five-for against Ireland -- on his way to the Man of the Tournament award to star for the Men in Blue in the showpiece event in 2011.
"As I go back in time today, my life has been like a roller coaster ride. Winning the 2011 World Cup, being man of the series, four Man of the Match awards was all like a dream, which was followed by a harsh reality -- getting diagnosed of cancer. It was like touching the sky and then falling down at lightning speed and hitting the ground hard. As all this happened so quickly and that too when I was at the peak of my career.
"I am extremely lucky to have played 400-plus games for India, I for one, would have not imagined doing this when I started my career as a cricketer. Through this journey, some matches that remain in my memory were the 2002 NatWest final, my first Test hundred in Lahore in 2004, the 2007 Test series in England, of course the six sixes in the 2007 T20 World Cup and then the most memorable was the 2011 World Cup finals."
The cancer diagnosis was confirmed in February 2012, after which Yuvraj stayed away from the game till December that year, when he made a comeback following treatment.
It was not a memorable comeback for the dashing southpaw, who was more than a handful with his left-arm spin. Yuvraj last turned out in national colours in June 2017 in an ODI during India's tour of the West Indies.
"This brings me to my next focus in life, which is to help cancer patients through my foundation YouWeCan. At YouWeCan we spread awareness about cancer and help the underprivileged by conducting screening camps, funding their treatments and sponsoring education to underprivileged cancer survived kids. We have also started our own merchandising arm YWC for the foundation to help generate funds for the cause. I really want to make a difference to the society by setting example through my inspiring story," Yuvraj said.
Recalling his cagey innings in the 2014 T20 World Cup final which, in the end, cost India the Trophy, Yuvraj said it was probably the worst day of his career.
Yuvraj came in at 64/2 in the 11th over, scored 11 off 21 with that spell of play resulting in the lowest first-innings total in a World Twenty20 final and the second-lowest score for the loss of only four wickets.
"Probably my worst day in my cricket career was the 2014 T20 World Cup final against Sri Lanka when I scored 11 off 21 balls. It was so shattering that I felt my career was over, and I was written off by everyone to an extent that it made me feel at times that it's all over.
"Then I took a bit of time off and that's when I realised why I play cricket -- its because I love the game. So I went back to basics, and scored heavily in domestic cricket and about a year and a half later I made by comeback in T20 for India again where I hit six and four in the last over against Australia in Sydney and suddenly all the belief came right back.
"Though I was still in and out of the team for a while and after scoring almost 700 runs in 5 games in domestic cricket I finally made a comeback in one day cricket after three years in Cuttack, on 18th January against England in 2017 and recorded my highest one-day score of 150 (127). When everybody said it was impossible."
Yuvraj continued to be a part of the Indian Premier League (IPL) and also played for Punjab in the domestic circuit,. He ended his career with an outstanding ODI record of 8701 runs -- 22nd in the overall list, and seventh among Indians -- at an average of 36.55 and 111 wickets.
In the longest format of the game, Yuvraj was not so effective, scoring three centuries and 11 half-centuries and aggregating 1900 runs, and in T20Is -- where he headlined India's 2007 title-winning effort with a blast of six sixes in a Stuart Broad over -- he ended with 1177 runs and 28 wickets.
"Cricket has given me some great friends and seniors. I started my career under Sourav Ganguly's captaincy and got an opportunity to play with my idol the great Sachin Tendulkar and other legends like Anil Kumble, V.V.S. Laxman, Rahul Dravid and Javagal Srinath. My close friends who I grew up with playing for India, who also went on to become great match winners for the country such as Zak (Zaheer Khan), Gauti (Gautam Gambhir), Veeru (Virender Sehwag), Ashu (Ashish Nehra) and Bhajji (Harbhajan Singh). I made some great friends and not such great friends playing for so many years.
"This is the same batch that created history and went on to win the World Cup under the great captaincy of Dhoni and exceptional coaching of Gary Kirsten, probably the best international coach I played under."
Yuvraj also jogged back time, saying he was fortunate to have played in some of the great Indian teams.
"I played with some great teams like Pakistan winning and losing in 2004, 2006 & 2007 with Australia, losing to them in 2003 WC finals and beating them in 2007 WC T20 semi-finals and again beating them in 20011 quarter-finals. These were some epic battles and I'll always cherish these memories for rest of my life.
"The adrenaline rush playing for India, singing the national anthem before each game, touching the Indian flag, stopping every run for the team or scoring every run for the team was a completely different high. To be a part of the history that was made after 28 years, I mean honestly what more could I ask for. I think it's a perfect day to move on," he signed off. - IANS