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Last Updated: Thursday, 8 May, 2003, 16:23 GMT 17:23 UK
Yuvraj reaching for the top
By Paul Grunill

When Yuvraj Singh strode to the middle for his first one-day international innings, he was still two months shy of his 19th birthday.

The scene was Nairobi, the event the prestigious ICC Knockout tournament, yet the occasion seemed to have little or no effect on the self-confident youngster.

YUVRAJ FACTFILE
Born: Chandigarh 12/12/1981
First-class debut: 1996-97
ODI debut: v Kenya, Oct 2000
71 matches, 1,631 runs, average 31.36, one 100, 12 50s
Father Yograj Singh played one Test and six ODIs

Two hours later and the mighty Australians were convinced they had seen a future star after he hit 12 fours in making 84 off 80 balls, which ultimately proved decisive in a 20-run Indian win.

Taller than many Indian cricketers, and blessed with natural timing and power, it comes as a surpise therefore that he had to wait two and a half years to record his first one-day century.

It finally arrived when he made an unbeaten 102 against Bangladesh in Dhaka last month.

And Yorkshire's decision to make him just the second Indian, after Sachin Tendulkar in 1992, to play for the county marks him out for greatness.

Still only 21, Yuvraj now has over 70 one-day appearances behind him but just as importantly, he has had to deal with disappointments and rise above them.

Twice dropped from the team after lean spells with the bat, he has been a virtual ever-present since returning against Zimbabwe on home soil a year ago with scores of 80 not out and 75.

He followed that with a magnificent 69 off 63 balls as he and Mohammed Kaif played the key roles in India reaching a target of 326 to beat England in the NatWest Series final at Lord's.

Yuvraj showed his big match temperament again two months later with 62 as India beat South Africa in the ICC Champions Trophy semi-finals in Colombo.

And a psychological barrier was overcome when he finally passed three figures against Bangladesh.

Yuvraj and Dravid at Lord's
Yuvraj has benefitted from playing alongside the likes of Rahul Dravid

There is still a lot to be done - he needs to play Test cricket to tighten up his technique, especially against the spinners.

But the intensive schedule of county cricket will build his experience in double-quick time.

And a first-class record of 2,059 runs at an average of 47.88, including seven centuries, suggests he has what it takes to shine in the longer game.

The world is at his feet for the boy from the Punjab, who is also enjoying the fringe benefits, keeping company with glamorous actresses and TV presenters.

"The girls in India like him a lot. He's usually mobbed wherever he goes....but my son has no romantic interests," his mother Shabnum Singh recently told a newspaper.

Indian fans, and now Yorkshire members, must hope he continues to keep his mind on the day job.




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