This was written in Southampton, on a grey, miserable day, at a ground far removed from the centre of town, its attractions and action. So not Yuvraj Singh.
When the news of Yuvraj's retirement came through during the World Cup, Harbhajan Singh was spotted sprinting across the Hampshire Bowl, jacket in hand, heading to talk on a commentary segment about his friend. There are bound to be dispassionate assessments of the timing of the announcement, and measured responses about his place in Indian cricket history, with some tut-tutting about opportunities lost and chances squandered. Yuvraj, however, will always own the memory and the impact of his presence at the crease, and some unshakeable numbers.
Every major white-ball tournament India ever won in the new millennium had his stamp on it. Starting with the country's first Under-19 World Cup title in 2000, the 2007 World T20, and of course the 2011 World Cup. Without Yuvraj, 2011 could not have been won. Armed with bat, ball, and a personal cussedness to get over the line, he set his contribution in stone - and he was to find later, blood. For a cricketer's legacy, his place in history, this, as the kids say these days, is totally lit. Pretty darn lit.
To be credited for two out of five major items of limited-overs silverware won by India is a Yuvraj scale of compliment, because he was always unashamedly a man of the bright lights and big occasion. Indian cricket's first millennial, he was the leader of the brat pack that entered an Indian team of self-contained, phlegmatic, individual high-achievers. Yuvraj and Co gave the team its fine balance between greybeards and spitfires, and added bite to India's cricket from 2000 onwards. In his prime, Yuvraj was more than an impressive middle-order batsman or sharp close-in fielder; it was his fearlessness and stomach for the fight that made him bona fide match-winner material, central to Indian ambitions in one-day cricket.
Try a free association with the words "Yuvraj Singh" and highlights come bursting through like flashbulbs. First the lumbering, rolling walk to the crease, squared shoulders and gum-chewing, chin-jutting insouciance. Then the single half-squat, settling into his stance like a grizzly bear wielding an axe.
His was batting of both sight and sound. There was the extravagance of the backlift - a bell clanged to alert the masses: oye, guys, watch me. The speed of downswing, bat heading towards the ball, head on-collision promised, the crack off the bat, the free swing of the arms, the roar of the crowd, and the orb making a lunar landing somewhere distant. Yuvraj could turn yorkers into boundary balls, flick good-length balls backward of square, step out to spinners, pull balls off his face, cream sixes over extra cover. Timing, daring and the gum-chewing strutwalk that drove the bowling team mad.
If pushed, he could sprint a single, or run languorously between the wickets, head wobbling, arms and elbows an unsynchronised shambles. Less streamlined athlete, more rumbling avalanche - best to get out of its way. But Yuvraj was more than the sum of his six sixes. Batting between No. 4 and 6 for 259 out of 278 ODI innings, he could be a heavy hitter when setting a score, and finisher, chaser, tempo-conductor with a target ahead.
Virender Sehwag's explosiveness at the top and Yuvraj's ice-cold calculation in the middle began to change India's ability to chase. Both were predecessors to the tattoo-sporting masters of the IPL universe. As a fielder Yuvraj had the anticipation, speed and athleticism to identify and snap up game-turning chances, to create run-outs or pluck catches out of dangerous flight paths. His champagne match was the 2002 ICC Champions Trophy semi-final where he took three catches. Jonty Rhodes would have purred in approval had he not been one of the victims himself.
No matter what the format, Yuvraj batted wherever he was asked to, and played leader or foil. His Test cricket was fitful because India's batting galacticos were in the form of their lives during his time. He was awed by the format, yearned to succeed in it, and remained respectful of the opportunities he received. Of his three Test centuries, two came in Pakistan. The first on a green wicket in Lahore in 2004, where only two out of India's top five got into double figures and the highest score after Yuvraj's 112 was Irfan Pathan's 49. In that historic 2004 Test series victory in Pakistan, his scores read: 59, 112, 12, 47. His partnership with Sachin Tendulkar in Chennai in 2008 or even the one with Rahul Dravid in Nottingham two and a half years later were proof that regardless of the match situation or the man's own track record, in Yuvraj at the other end stood a comrade.
That he chose to announce his retirement after India's World Cup match against Australia is poetic too. As the first of the last two specialist batsmen left in a tense chase, Yuvraj's nerveless half-century in the 2011 quarter-final knocked the four-time world champions out of the tournament, their first knockout-round defeat in the event since the 1996 final. After Australia were despatched, Yuvraj pulled off a football-style slide onto his knees and let out a roar. His individual performances had yanked the team along in the World Cup. On that night India witnessed the intensity of Yuvraj's desire to win it.
After the final in Mumbai, I walked alongside him briefly as he headed towards the dressing room after the press conference, to ask him about Dhoni mentioning that he had been throwing up during the game. "Some food you ate?" "Stress, I think'' he said, "just stress." The whole country was deliriously happy that night, and Yuvraj was totally sated, but of course it wasn't just stress. It was the cancer that was identified a few months later and then treated.
I got to know Yuvraj better when I worked with him for Test of My Life, his memoir about the World Cup victory and its scary aftermath. Under that six-hitting, party-boy image and Punjabi drawl lived a young man who had got past a trying childhood estrangement between his parents, and the desires of a demanding father, retaining his humour and humanity. He was to show that he had an exceptional ability to articulate recollected experience, an ability to laugh at himself, and was unafraid to spell out his vulnerabilities and anxieties in public.
Yuvraj's cricket after his return from cancer was to career off randomly, the match-winner magic fading before he brought it to a halt in Mumbai on Monday. In that interim, he returned to the humdrum of first-class and domestic cricket, seeking form and touch, mentoring a new batch of Punjab cricketers, trying not to let his selection anxieties or successive omissions affect the mood of the young team he played alongside.
I looked at Yuvraj's stats after 2011 and instead of considering them as segments of a dirge, an ode to Yuvraj, fading hero, I found myself grinning. In 71 matches for India across formats, the averages, strike rate, number of hundreds and fifties are ho-hum. Some innings made fans tear their hair and sofa cushions, and caused the usual vitriolic outpourings on social media. Then the eyes slide over to the extreme end of the row - 157 fours, 52 sixes. Regardless of Yuvraj's form, shape or speed on the day, these will have been 209 balls of possibility-inspiring mayhem. Think about 'em, imagine 'em being played and what they would have done to everyone who watched. On every day, in every way, he remained a player who was ready to dive headlong into dogfights and try take his team out of trouble. Helmet on head, heart on sleeve, never a backward step.
After the final draft of the book had been sent off, I happened to chat cricket with a Noida insurance agent, who was effusive in his appreciation of Yuvraj's comeback. He was delighted to learn about the book and wanted to know its name so he could buy it when published. There had been a fair bit of back and forth over the choice of title, so I asked the insurance agent what he would name it.
It was as if the man had been waiting his entire life to be asked the question. His reply was instantaneous. "Zinda-dil," he said. Zinda is living, dil is heart. The closest you get to a translation is "full of life". It is a weak summation of the career of this madbat, white-ball legend, red-ball dreamer, pie-chucker, wild child, cancer survivor, junior, senior, team-mate, buddy.
The phrase the insurance agent instinctively picked is what works best.
Yuvraj Singh. Zinda-dil.