| Yuvraj Singh after his century in the Lahore Test last year, the 'best innings' of his career
Kochi: Yuvraj Singh's performance is going to impact on Team India's chances in the six-match ODI series versus Pakistan. He couldn't play any of the Tests and, understandably, is hungry to make the most in cricket's shorter version. The 23-year-old, who has quite a following in these parts too, spoke to The Telegraph in the lead-up to the first ODI.
The following are excerpts
Q You made the XIV in all three Tests of the recent series, but never figured in the XI. Was it crushing'
A I've had a series of disappointments in the last six months, from the time I got dropped after the Chennai Test (against Australia)... It was frustrating, yet everybody knows our middle-order is so strong... In any case, making the XI isn't in my hands.
Were you under more pressure when asked to open in Chennai'
The combination is most important... I knew I wouldn't get a look-in in the middle-order... However, whatever the position, a batsman needs time to settle. Sadly, I got dropped after only one completed innings (as opener)... Obviously, facing Glenn McGrath and Jason Gillespie wasn't easy.
It must be tough being out altogether...
Ups and downs will be there... Of course, a lot of people said I shouldn't have opened in that Test, but I don't regret having done so. It's another matter that more opportunities (as an opener) could have resulted in a different story. (After a pause) I'm not blaming anybody, but it hurt that I got dropped despite a century (112 at the Gaddafi) just three Tests before Chennai...
Given that Gautam Gambhir has settled as an opener and the middle-order doesn't exactly have a vacancy, you may have a long wait. Are you ready in the mind'
(Grins) I waited three years for my Test debut (Mohali, in October 2003)... Hopefully, the wait for my seventh Test cap won't be as long.
Are you game for opening'
Provided I get a fair run... Provided I am not judged on how I perform in one Test...
Is there an apprehension you could again be labelled fit-for-ODIs only'
Us Lahore century ke baad koi aisa kehta nahin hai... People know I can deliver in Tests as well.
Today, how do you look back on that century'
With satisfaction... We were in big trouble that afternoon and, on a seaming track, I played the best innings of my career.
What do you fall back on to remain mentally tough'
I read books which give positive energy... Books which help stay in a nice frame of mind... I don't have a favourite author, though...
Which is the last book you've read'
Robin Sharma's The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari.
The ODIs get underway on Saturday. Are you looking to make a point'
No... No... I've already played 111 matches... It's a big series and an opportunity to hold centrestage, that's it.
What have you learnt in four-and-half years of international cricket'
The importance of a gameplan, the importance of having a proper attitude... Back in October 2000, I began with big ambitions... Began thinking I could be as successful as Sachin (Tendulkar) was when he began his career... However, I realised everybody can't be a Sachin... That it's important to do things you're able to control... Being ambitious is fine, but nothing is going to happen just because you're ambitious.
You don't regret having opened in Chennai, but do you regret anything at all'
(After a pause) Perhaps, at the start of my career, I ought not to have behaved the way I used to when I was merely an aspiring cricketer... I wouldn't pay attention to what happened around me...
Owing to distractions'
Not really... I continued to behave young... Going out and... Things changed when I realised that's not on... That my approach had to be different. Even on the field, I changed... I stopped being content with those quick 20s... I began to train harder too.
Well, how much has the person in you changed'
(Laughs) Nowadays, I manage to control my temper... Try to be level-headed... I'm trying to be a better person, yet at the end of the day, the Yuvraj you see is the Yuvraj I am...
Are your 'colourful' days over'
But I've always been serious about life!
Even now, are you most indebted to your mother, Shabnam'
Absolutely... She continues to be my inspiration, continues to be the one who lifts me when I feel low... My father (Yograj) has also worked hard... I can't forget my coach, Sukhwinder Baba, either.
Leaving the Team India XIV (in Calcutta) and rushing to play the Ranji semis versus Mumbai must have been some experience...
Yeah... Instead of 40,000 at the Eden, there were 40 people at the Wankhede.. That was odd... However, toppling Mumbai brought lots of satisfaction.
Did you enjoy working with Intikhab Alam'
He's different... He knows how to motivate, bring the best out of the boys... His man-management is wonderful.
Have you, for the time being, set a target'
Sure... I would like to be a matchwinner in at least one of the six ODIs.
The ICC is looking at effecting changes in the one-day game. Have you given the proposals a thought'
Frankly, no... One-day cricket, though, is heavily loaded in favour of batsmen...
Finally, the Bangalore defeat notwithstanding, what's special about Team India'
Sourav Ganguly, for one... The Harbhajans and Sehwags and I have been lucky to have a captain who consistently shows faith... He has got the combination right and has held this team together... John Wright has also played a big part... Encouraging us to adopt a different work ethic... Getting us to work harder... Adrian le Roux's coming on board (as trainer) for a year helped too... For all our achievements, each of us has to go one step further. That step has to be taken... Hopefully, it will be done in the next fortnight.