On a strong wicket
Champion 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 Shabnam Singh
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 asks with the innocence of a teenager. Spend some time with him and you would be convinced, he is a man on the cricket field, but still a boy off it.
The banter between him and mother (Shabnam Singh) can leave you in splits. She is referred to as “Mom, Maa, Mother India or Maata.” It all depends on his mood. Shabnam is a doting mother, friend, guide…Does she ever scold him? “Sir, don't ask her, ask me,” he bellows in jest. The mother smiles!
Yuvraj Singh, Man of the Tournament at the 2011 World Cup, an exciting cricketer, a captain's delight, rich at heart, brave in deeds, is meek at home. A perpetual smile adorns his countenance and the famed swagger is only an illusion. He is, as his mother says with pride, extremely “well-behaved.” He addresses the staff at home with respect and affection.
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 always 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.” To which, sometimes, Yuvraj responds, “Aap hee karlo batting (better you bat).”
What about Yuvraj? “Did I have a choice?” his laughter fills the room. “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 that requires heavy medication and rehabilitation.
He loathes sitting at home. “This is tougher than the lean period that I encountered last year,” he smiles. And then he is serious. “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.”
Lunch is served and the mother reminds her son, “Take your medicines and please wash your hands.” Yuvraj merely nods.
Five years ago, Yuvraj moved from Chandigarh to Gurgaon to “cut down on travelling” and also due to the fact that many of his fiends had settled in the National Capital Region. He loves Gurgaon but hates the traffic. Yuvraj, who supports needy cricketers through his own Yuvraj Sports Foundation, loves to spend his evenings at the Siri Fort Sports Complex.
Given his awesome talent, he 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, focused, 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 with personal examples. 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) train their guns on your off-the-field life. I also have a personal life. 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?”
He makes a plea. “Please don't judge me by the lifestyle you gather from people who don't even know me. People term me brash, arrogant, rude without even having met me once. I don't go out to party and drink. I go out to meet people, one has to socialise. It helps me develop my character.”
Maturity gained from experience comes across when he admits, “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. Ask my teammates. I have been working a lot on this aspect. 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.”
“Yuvi, food is getting cold,” the mother reminds. We settle for lunch, but not quite. “Wash your hands.” Yuvi does….”Eat slowly.” The son smiles, “Aap hee khila do Maa.”……Their laughter increases the appetite.
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