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Book Review :The Test of My Life


The art of bouncing back
SAIBAL CHATTERJEE | Issue Dated: April 21, 2013, New Delhi
Tags : Yuvraj Singh | The test of my life | Book reviews |

An autobiography cast in the classic tale-of-survival-against-all-odd mould, The Test of My Life reinforces the commonly held belief that it is only in life-threatening adversity that the true character of an individual shines through. In Yuvraj Singh’s case, it certainly did. 

As Indian sport’s most high-profile cancer survivor, Yuvraj has a story that is at once poignant and inspirational. In this book “about my life before cancer, with cancer, and my life after it”, the cricketer is as candid as any public figure can afford to be in this era of 24x7 television channels lying in wait in the shadows to pounce upon any piece of information deemed salacious, saleable or lachrymal enough for shrill, relentless exploitation on the airwaves.

Yuvraj narrates his story straight from the heart, bringing out the innermost details of an intense fight that was fraught with doubts and fears, but one that, happily, ended in triumph. Cancer had threatened to derail more than just his career months after the most memorable moment of his life – the 2011 World Cup victory rendered doubly sweet by his bagging the Player of the Tournament prize. It was a distressing interlude that he had seen coming as he played the tournament in much pain and discomfort.

The rest of that year “vanished” from his life as he went in for treatment in the US and struggled to make it back to the sport that had made him what he was. This book is a bid to ensure that the time that went by in an agonising blur isn’t wasted. “Just as we share our victories and joys, we need to share our grief so someone else can feel they are not alone when the chips are down,” Yuvraj writes.    

For this reviewer, The Test of My Life: From Cricket to Cancer and Back, co-authored by sports scribes Sharda Ugra and Nishant Jeet Arora, works primarily because it is marked by journalistic directness. Although the ever-flamboyant middle-order batsman has let on that the story might take the form of a movie soon, this book, mercifully, isn’t a screenwriter’s take on Yuvraj’s brush with cancer. You feel the force of the ‘real’ battle that the cricketer waged to come out of the ordeal. It is told simply, without undue dramatic layering. Sentiments flow naturally from the innards of the tale.

Cancer seems to have made the once-brash and reckless young man a bit of a philosopher. He remembers the occasion when, as a boy, he crashed his new bicycle into a rickshaw. He did not know how to ride the bike but wanted to “master the machine on my own”. The result, he recalls, was “a spectacular accident, made up of a pinch of foolishness and plenty of blood”. Ten stitches were needed to repair two of his fingers.

Yuvraj then writes: “When I pull on my gloves now, I can still see the scars. The stitches remind me that balance is always a hard thing to master. Balance wasn’t part of the way I grew up and it is not part of Indian cricket either. Being accident-prone got me used to getting up and dusting myself off without fuss.”

While the cancer story is obviously at the heart of this readable book, it is also noteworthy for the frankness with which Yuvraj dwells upon the paternal pressures that he faced in childhood as his dad, Yograj Singh, who played one Test match and six ODIs for India, sought to make good his own failings through his son.

Always fond of all kinds of sporting pursuits, Yuvraj was more into skating than anything else, but his father literally forced him into cricket with such disregard for the boy’s own choices that the game “became a chore”.

He confesses that “even as a teenager, there were times I felt I was living my father’s life, chasing his dreams”. Now, many years later, he is of course able to see his father’s exertions with greater equanimity.

Yuvraj also looks back at his parents’ failed marriage with just as much honesty and empathy that he brings to bear upon the rest of his remarkable story. His mother was 18 and his dad 22 when they got married. Yuvraj was born a year later. The couple grew up and apart as life progressed, and Yuvraj and his brother, Zorawar, eight years younger, bore the brunt of the turmoil at home.

Yuvraj’s mental toughness, tenacity and sterling successes as a cricketer can, in part at least, be attributed to the many challenges that he countenanced in his formative years. It probably put some steel into his soul: the deeply ingrained mettle would have come in handy when cancer struck.

The way in which the cricketer handled the dreaded disease through all the tears and the guts will henceforth always be stuff of Indian sporting legend thanks to this book. Strongly recommended. 

Publication: Random House
Edition: Hardcover                         
Edition: Hardbound     
ISBN: 978-8-184-00298-0
Pages:  189               
Price: Rs 399

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