We want Yuvraj Singh to triumph because he is a symbol of our own individual battles against life's irrationality. His triumph is our triumph
In the country’s obsessive interest in Yuvraj Singh are manifest our celebration of his triumph over cancer as well as hope that through him we could have yet another glowing instance of man overcoming the absurdities of existence. Ours is a life of extreme randomness, inexplicably favoured by fate one moment and incomprehensibly betrayed in another. All of us, Yuvraj included, have no option but to encounter the adversities that suddenly loom before us. Yet, even those successful in the battle have their body ravaged, their spirit battered and their souls permanently scarred, thus signifying the power of the absurd in our lives.
So it is that the rousing reception we accord to him springs from our subconscious hope to have returned to us the Yuvraj we knew, the flamboyant batsman, the electric fielder, and the indomitable fighter. No doubt, the lusty cheering for him is our way of celebrating his vanquishing of the cancerous cells, aware as we are of the disease’s high fatality rate and the suffering it imposes. Another cricketer, New Zealand wicketkeeper Ken Wadsworth played a Test match in February 1976, but six months later succumbed to skin cancer.
Yet our cheering is also a resounding encouragement to Yuvraj to recover his old, earlier self. We know in our hearts that only then can the absurdities of existence be said to have been truly overcome and the randomness of life rendered irrelevant. A less-than-average comeback would imply that the irrational had extracted an exorbitant price even though it spared his life.
We cheer Yuvraj because he is the symbol of our own individual battles against misfortunes which buffet most of us, unexpectedly and illogically, and prompting us to ask, “Why Me?” It was precisely the question celebrated writer-journalist Christopher Hitchens refused to ask in his own battle against cancer. As novelist Ian McEwan wrote after meeting Hitchens in the hospital he was undergoing treatment, “Where others might have beguiled themselves with thoughts of divine purpose (why me?), Christopher had all of literature.” Cricket can be Yuvraj’s bulwark against the tide of dark memories, as literature was for Hitchens in his drift to the dreadful future.
The manifestation of life’s irrationality can be an extremely frightening and tragic experience. It was particularly so in Yuvraj’s case. There he was basking in India’s World Cup triumph, having been one of its most important pivots in the tournament, and dreaming of cementing his place in the Indian Test team on the back-to-back tours of the West Indies and England. It wasn’t to be as cancer flayed him. He now has another chance to prove wrong the selectors who seemed reluctant to give him an extended run in the Test.
As we cheer Yuvraj, we should perhaps recall the story of Santiago in Hemingway’s The Old Man and The Sea. Unable to catch a fish for 84 days, Santiago’s luck turns as a large marlin takes the bait. For two days and nights, he struggles to subdue the marlin, but as he establishes his supremacy by killing it, the trail of its blood attracts the sharks which set upon his exceptional catch. Santiago engages in a desperate struggle to ward off the sharks, subscribing to what he believes is the essence of human existence: “Man can be destroyed but never defeated.” Ultimately, what Santiago hauls in is just the marlin’s skeleton, its meat gorged by the sharks, illustrating the possibility of man’s struggle coming to naught. We must remember this as we cheer Yuvraj. He has, anyway, already shown to us that man can’t be defeated.
(The author is a Delhi-based journalist. Email: email@example.com)