COLOMBO: Six months ago, Indian all-rounder Yuvraj Singh was battling cancer in the United States and wondering if he would live, let alone play cricket again.
He returned after energy-sapping chemotherapy treatment in April, began light training in June and two months later found himself fast-tracked into the Indian team for the World Twenty20.
Former players like Ravi Shastri and Sanjay Manjrekar questioned the left-hander's selection when he failed to deliver in the first few games, with many wondering if the selectors had made the correct call.
He was not fully fit, they said, he was short of match practice and needed to make way for another player.
Yuvraj answered his critics in the crunch game against Pakistan on Sunday night with two wickets in three overs, a direct hit to effect a run out before partnering Virat Kohli in an unbroken half-century stand to see India home.
Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni was delighted with Yuvraj's return to form, saying he never had any doubts about the 30-year-old's fitness or his ability with bat or ball.
“Yuvi was already in the team, it wasn't even a consideration whether he would play or not,” Dhoni said after the eight-wicket win over Pakistan in Colombo.
“It is a good option to have a left-arm spinner, someone who takes the ball away from the right-hand batsman. Everyone knows Yuvraj is a very good fielder, and he affected a good run-out too.
“If we play with four bowlers, it will be difficult to keep Yuvraj out of the team. And the way he batted today, it will give him a lot of confidence.”
Dhoni also emphasised he was not worried about the fitness of Yuvraj, who was diagnosed and treated for a rare germ-cell cancer between his lungs.
“As far as the T20 format is concerned, he looks very fit,” the Indian captain said. “He has done a lot of work in the last few months. I am really not worried about his fitness.
“He will take a lot of positives out of the games he has played here. We all know that once he gets going, he is a terrific batsman to have in the side.”
Yuvraj has scored 45 runs in four matches so far, including a best of 19 not out off 16 balls against Pakistan. He has also claimed six wickets, the most by an Indian bowler alongwith seamer Lakshmipathy Balaji.
In a recent interview to the 'Week' newsmagazine, Yuvraj said: “I am just happy I have another life – a second chance. But there were times when I was not sure I would play again.”
Yuvraj was a key figure in India's 50-over World Cup triumph last year, scoring 362 runs and taking 15 wickets in nine matches to be named man of the tournament.
The flamboyant all-rounder rose to fame when he smashed England's fast bowler Stuart Broad for six sixes in one over during the inaugural World Twenty20 in South Africa in 2007, which India went on to win.
India failed to reach the semi-finals in the next two editions in 2009 in England and 2010 in the West Indies.
India take on South Africa in the last Super Eights match on Tuesday night, needing a win to remain in contention for the semi-finals.