| YUVRAJ: ĎI never felt I lacked mental toughnessí
Johannesburg: Not too long ago, some felt Yuvraj Singhís approach was casual, that he was there courtesy Sourav Ganguly. In time, he has been silencing critics and World Cup 2003, specially, has seen a more mature Yuvraj. Thatís been reflected in his performances ó outstanding innings, at key moments, against England (42), Pakistan (50 not out) and Kenya (unbeaten 58).
Then, the 21-year-old (son of Yograj Singh) ó who spoke to The Telegraph the other evening ó remains an absolute livewire on the field.
The following are excerpts
On his maiden India call-up, the 2000 ICC KnockOut event
|Rhodes: The No. 1 fielder
|GIBBS: Will dive, do everything
|VINCENT: Has excellent anticipation
I was playing in the Buchi Babu (for the NCA) when I got picked... I must confess I was a bit surprised... Of course, itís not that my selection came as a bolt from the blue. After all, earlier that year, I was Player of the Tournament in the U-19 World Cup (in Sri Lanka)... I got plenty of recognition after that.
On his one-day debut, versus Kenya
I was tense... But, then, I thought of my mother (Shabnam) and the sacrifices she had made... I told myself that I couldnít let anybody down... Not my mother, not myself... (Adds emotionally) As a son, Iíll never be able to do enough to thank her for the extraordinary support. Have our family problems affected me' No... There are hassles in just about every family... Iíve left that bit behind.
On whether life changed after that 84 (against Australia) in his very first innings
To an extent, yes... The adulation, the recognition... Of course, made me feel good, but I had to constantly act in a more mature manner, more responsibly...
On the expectations factor
Suddenly, I was expected to help win every game... As it turned out, I had an indifferent six months or so, till the tri-series in Sri Lanka (July-August 2001).
On criticism that he then wasnít mentally tough
(Grins) When the going is rough, people find many things to be critical about. However, I never felt I lacked mental toughness. I worked hard and regained confidence after that unbeaten 98 versus Sri Lanka.
On being dropped for the home series against England (2001-2002)
It hurt and hurt real hard. But, I realised my performances had not been great and, so, couldnít blame anybody except myself... I got back to working hard and did well in domestic cricket. I was convinced a recall was round the corner and, sure enough, I was there for the (home) series versus Zimbabwe.
On whether he sought anybodyís advice when he was out of big-time cricket
I would regularly speak to seniors and also seek the guidance of my coach back in Chandigarh, Sukhwinder Bawa.
On, at one stage, having been dubbed Sourav Gangulyís blue-eyed boy
You have to be lucky to have a captain like Sourav... Itís important to have the captainís support when the going isnít good and, frankly, Iíve been fortunate that Iíve played all my cricket under Sourav... People can say what they like, but Sourav wouldnít have stood by me if I didnít have some potential. Surely, he saw something in me.
On being stamped a one-day cricketer only
(Grins again) Itís my dream to play Test cricket... Iím sure my time will come... I do believe in destiny, aur time hone se, main Test cricket zaroor khel sakoon ga.
On whether he is impatient for his first Test cap
Initially, yes, I did have that feeling... In any case, as the saying goes, nothing comes before it is destined to.
On whether he is serious about bowling
Letís put it this way: I enjoy it and, given a chance, will try and make a contribution with the ball as well.
On idol Sachin Tendulkar
Do I need to say anything' I just watch and learn from him... Heís a complete cricketer and a very fine human being.
On whether he has an idol outside cricket
Ryan Giggs of Manchester United... If either he or Man United have an off day, then, my day is gone.
On the lessons learnt in almost two-and-half years of international cricket
No.1 that youíve got to be mentally tough, that nothing comes easy... No.2 that you are responsible for your own actions and that nobody will play your cricket for you... No.3 that youíve got to be responsible on and off the field.
On his role in the team
Try and bat till the end and, on the field, pep-up everybody... Iíve got to lift myself too if Iíve had a bad day...
On his superb run in the World Cup
I know what my role is and Iíve tried not to disappoint. This is the biggest event and, clearly, the top opportunity to put your best foot forward.
On whether his brilliance on the field has come naturally
You may not believe it but, initially, I got dropped from the Punjab side because of my fielding... On the basis of a few misfields, people decided I was a liability... Well, that made me more determined and I slogged in the two years that I wasnít played.
On his favourite fielders
Jonty Rhodes... From point, he would even chase the balls going to long-off... Itís a tragedy the way he exited from the World Cup... No.2 is Lou Vincent... Heís quick on the feet and has excellent anticipation... Then, Iíll go for Herschelle Gibbs... He will dive, he will do everything. Moreover, on a day when he hasnít contributed with the bat, you can bet he will bring off a great catch.
On whether he has a goal
(Laughs) I do... Only, itís best not to discuss that publicly.
Finally, on his emotions just days away from the World Cup semi-final
The excitement is there, yes, but Iím not getting carried away... Letís see what destiny has in store.