An unfailingly joyful celebrity on the cricket field; That is Yuvraj Singh, much misunderstood, much-maligned by “ill-informed” critics; a loner actually, still waiting for recognition.
Few know the real Yuvraj, who, self-admittedly, is yet to attain the fruits of his hard work under scorching sun, playing for India, winning hearts, breaking hearts, but playing to win matches, pursing a punishing course but unwilling to bend or surrender. “I am not what they say, show or write,” pleads the man who, in Sachin Tendulkar's words, is an “awesome” cricketer.
Yuvraj's story is about resonance of success even though his mistakes continue to haunt him. “When you are young, you are vulnerable. You don't listen to elders. As you grow, you understand life better. Criticism hurt a lot when I was young. Not anymore. I understand it is part and parcel of the game. But I welcome matured criticism.”
Want to prove myself
Recuperating at home, spending time with friends and wondering what lies ahead, Yuvraj confesses he has matured since the World Cup glory. “I want to prove my mettle as a Test batsman. I have it in me, just need a break. I am looking forward to making an impact as a Test player. That is real cricket.”
He is striving now to make it to the Test team for England. “Injuries and form always hampered my Test journey. Now was the best time but unfortunately this happened (chest infection). It is strange. The more I yearn for Test cricket the more it eludes me. I am hopeful to make it to the Test team for England. I am working to be fit and hopefully I'll get an opportunity. I want to do well in Test cricket.”
The World Cup was a “dream fulfilled” but it was so dark and stifling, just a year ago. He was not getting runs, losing confidence. It was bleak and crushing. And then he spent an hour with Sachin Tendulkar, in Sri Lanka. “That one hour changed my life, my career” he remembers with gratitude.
If Yuvraj, 29, played the World Cup for Tendulkar, 38, it was his way of acknowledging the man's influence and encouragement. “He told me so many things. He was actually more concerned than me. I was struggling for direction. He showed me the way. He recalled his own lack of form, how he had stopped enjoying cricket and how he emerged from that period.”
Most important thing
What was the most important thing that he remembered from the one-hour conversation? “He told me ‘when the time comes you'll matter the most' and I remembered it right through the World Cup. I shone and he celebrated more than I did.”
One of the finest stroke-makers in modern cricket, sometimes, quite needlessly, is compared with past greats. “I would like to be Yuvraj Singh, have my own identity, leave a legacy of my own... I know my responsibilities towards my fans and well-wishers and that is what I have been trying to achieve, trying to set an example, a benchmark, worth being proud of. I am simple and honest. That's how I want you to remember me.” He has never been a boring batsman to watch, never. Whether he entertains long, or perishes quickly, Yuvraj always bats on his terms. He believes in going the full route. How? By making a statement, a resounding one, with his bat, in his style. “I am not the type to worry about the average. I look at myself as a match-winner and would like to be known for this quality.”
The driving force
Who is the force behind his newly-found sense of calmness? “It is my belief in God. I am motivated to do the right things, with the right perspective. I owe it to my gurus (Sant Baba Ajit Singhji and Sant Baba Ram Singhji), and mom (Shabnam Singh).”
Only three Test centuries in 34 Tests, his first coming in only his second match! “That is not me.” he confesses. So, what next? “Will make amends, will make runs, loads of them.” Bowlers, watch out. He had made a similar resolve before the 2011 World Cup. And won the Cup for India!