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On a strong wicket

Cricketer Yuvraj Singh talks about the ups and downs of a wonderfully happening life

PHOTO: RAJEEV BHATT

TWO'S COMPANY Yuvraj Singh with his mother

The Ferrari occupies a prime spot as you enter Yuvraj Singh's home in Gurgaon. A flamboyant car to suit his flamboyant taste! “Is it a crime to be flamboyant?” he smiles. Spend some time with him, and you'll realise he is a man on the cricket field, but a boy off it.

Yuvraj Singh, Man of the Tournament at World Cup 2011, an exciting cricketer and a captain's delight is meek at home. He is, as his mother Shabnam Singh says with pride, extremely “well-behaved”. He addresses the staff at home with respect and affection.

A lot of hard work

Shabnam says: “It is not easy to achieve what he has. It has been hard work since childhood. From the day he was born, I wanted him to be a cricketer. When he was 16, I knew he would be a special cricketer. He has his way of hitting back. Knows what he wants. I just tell him “go and play your own self. And play straight”.

What about Yuvraj? “Did I have a choice?” he laughs. “Of course, I wanted to be a cricketer too. But, I loved skating. Once the choice was made, I just pursued my goal,” says the ace all-rounder, recuperating from a chest infection.

He loathes sitting at home. “This is tougher than the lean period that I encountered last year,” he says. “When you are young, you listen to yourself more than your elders. You are very vulnerable. As you grow, you realise that it is important to listen to seniors. They are better guides.”

Five years ago, Yuvraj moved from Chandigarh to Gurgaon to “cut down on travelling” and also due to the fact that many of his friends had settled there.

Given his talent, the cricketer is considered an under-achiever. “I have had some very frustrating moments. Injuries kept bothering me. But I told myself I had to remain calm, focussed, and not to go on my back-foot. The tour to Sri Lanka (in 2010) was the lowest point in my career but I found my saviour in Sachin. He motivated me. I got support from Zak (Zaheer Khan), Bhajji (Harbhajan Singh), Ashish (Nehra), Gauti (Gautam Gambhir) and Viru (Virender Sehwag). My parents were a very strong factor too.”

Yuvraj holds strong views on the way media has sacrificed authenticity for cheap returns. “Media will be fair only when you are doing well. But they can savage you if you don't perform. There are actually very few who back you when you are down. They are the ones I respect. You can't spice up your show and spoil someone's reputation for your TRPs. Cricket is a percentage game. Even Sachin and Ricky (Ponting) excel in every third game, not in every game. People who have not played cricket will never understand this.”

Senseless criticism irks Yuvraj. “Not doing well at cricket means they (mediapersons) can train their guns on your off-the-field life. I have a personal life too. Why can't the criticism be related to the game? When others do it, it is relaxation. When I do it, it becomes partying. How?”

“As a kid you don't know a lot of things. I made some mistakes, but then have learnt from them. I am a public figure and I have to set standards. When I was a boy I behaved like any other boy. Personally, I feel my conduct has been good. I have a better perspective of things now.”

He wants to play more Test cricket now. “When I was peaking, I suffered a knee injury, then a finger injury, then a neck injury. The more I wanted to play Test cricket, the more it eluded me. Now is the time for me to make a place in the Test side. I know I can do it.”

VIJAY LOKAPALLY

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