KOCHI: Six years ago, cricket fans in the north thought Yuvraj Singh had an attitude problem. He was known to cast his wicket away to innocuous bowlers and not pay attention on improving upon his technique and temperament. But the left-hander from Chandigarh has come a long way since then.
A senior member of the team now he is reliable and is beginning to do justice to his potential. The back-foot punch through covers is a class act; so are the effortless drives in the `V'. The 1,260gm willow is a punishing tool in the hands of this gifted strokeplayer.
Yuvraj, an uncomplicated young man, believes in having dreams. "You must have a dream if you want to go to the next level. I create situations to test myself. I am the hero of a big chase in a Test match; on another occasion I am winning India a cup final; I am taking wickets and pulling off run outs at crucial stages. I keep challenging myself. I like challenges because I get this feeling that I have been picked to tackle them," said Yuvraj.
The other day he drew on his innate strength and skills to produce a delightful innings, his seventh one-day century, at the Nehru Stadium in Goa. He has worked hard in bringing about this change in himself. "I now think of playing until the end. Play more and more ground shots. I know I need to be more responsible as one of the senior members of the team. Earlier, I used to play shots too early but now have realised I have to bat past 35 overs. As a senior player, I know my responsibilities on and off the field," said the left-hander.
Yuvraj has grown as a one-day batsman; his shot selection has improved. "I have put value on my wicket since I have been given greater responsibility. I am getting to bat higher up the order; there are more deliveries to play and I get more opportunities to adapt and score. When you bat at number five or six, it is always a run-a-ball situation," he said.
Yuvraj is also quick to acknowledge the importance of consistency. "Everyone wants to be consistent. As a batsman you need to score consistently and you have to win matches. But it is also true that no one can score in every match. A performance is worthy only if you finish the job. I believe in performing and making an honest effort. The team management knows best that I never shirk from responsibilities," said Yuvraj.
Skipper Rahul Dravid has immense faith in Yuvraj's bowling abilities. Yuvraj agrees, "I would love long spells but then my turn to bowl comes only when the pitch is slow, the ball is turning and we have four regular bowlers in the playing eleven. It is not that I have been ignoring my bowling but I bowl when the situation is right for my style. I would love to be called an all-rounder and I have time to become one."
There are still areas to improve and Yuvraj confesses, "I am trying to develop my close-in catching. I need time. You can't just come in and start taking catches. There are too many people making frivolous comments on us. Dropping a catch is like committing a sin. Why don't people realise it is, after all, just a game."
Virender Sehwag is a silent admirer. "Yuvi has a great attitude. His bat-flow is so good. He is at ease against pace and spin. Hits the ball very hard. He is an asset to our team."
The unassuming Yuvraj treasures Sehwag's observations and promises not to let down his mate.