The year 2000 was a tough one for Indian cricket. India had started the year with a dismal tri-series in Australia that included Pakistan. Sachin Tendulkar’s second reign as Indian captain came to an underwhelming end as Sourav Ganguly took over.
By June 2000, Ganguly had helmed big losses in a tri-series in Sharjah and the Asia Cup.
That same month, cricket was shaken by the Hansie Cronje match-fixing controversy and the shock waves reached India when Mohammad Azharuddin was implicated and soon discarded from the team.
Thus, in October, India entered the sophomore edition of the ICC Knockout tournament with a lot of question marks hounding them.
Yuvraj Singh, on the other hand, had had a much happier 2000. A player-of-the-tournament performance in India’s successful U-19 World Cup campaign and big performances in the Ranji Trophy before that, had catapulted him into the senior side for the ICC Knockout.
After an easy win over hosts, Kenya, India faced the new World Champions, Australia, in the quarterfinal.
India’s top-order had four of their seven all-time highest impact ODI batsmen at the time. Made to bat first, India lost three – Tendulkar, Ganguly, and Dravid – of the four with the score at 90 in the 19th over.
That is when Yuvraj Singh came in to bat for the very first time in ODIs (he had not batted in the tournament opener). He was to undergo a stern test of his skill and application by Australia’s pace battery comprising Glenn McGrath, Jason Gillespie and Brett Lee. Unfazed, he got going from the very second ball he faced by driving it to the boundary.
He soon built two significant partnerships; one of 40 runs with Vinod Kambli (29) and another of 64 with Robin Singh (19). Within the context of the match, only Ricky Ponting (46) would build partnerships that were as significant.
After Robin Singh’s dismissal at 194, Yuvraj weathered the fall of two more wickets before he departed at 239 in the 47th over. He had scored 84 in just 80 balls. With the lower order contributing as well, India set Australia a target of 266 to overcome and enter the semi final.
In their chase, Australia kept losing wickets as India showed glimpses of what was to become a regular aspect of their cricket in a few years – safe catching and spectacular fielding led by none other than Yuvraj himself, who took an athletic catch and affected a direct-hit run out.
Australia lost by 20 runs.
Yuvraj scored the highest proportion of runs in the match. The next-highest score in the match was Ricky Ponting’s 46. He also did so at a strike-rate that was significantly higher than the par strike-rate of the entire match. He, therefore, ended up as the highest impact batsman and the second-highest impact player (after Brett Lee) of the match.
Yuvraj Singh’s innings recorded a
This performance by Yuvraj is still the highest impact debut ODI innings by any of India’s top 15 highest impact ODI batsmen of all time (min. 60 ODIs), of which Yuvraj is tenth.
NOTE: Impact Index has undergone an upgradation in November 2015, and though 95% of its findings remain the same, there have been some minor shifts. This piece was updated post that, and is up-to-date as of August 2016.