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My improvement has everything to do with change in thought process: Yuvraj - A Telegraph Exclusive - The In-Form star says he challenges himself in pressure situations

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By LOKENDRA PRATAP SAHI in Kochi
  • Published 6.04.06
  •  

Kochi: With five hundreds and as many fifties in ODIs and one hundred (plus two fifties) in Tests, Yuvraj Singh has been outstanding in 2005-06. The gifted left-hander spoke to The Telegraph for over 45 minutes in the lead-up to the fourth ODI versus England.

The following are excerpts:

Q This about-to-end season has been terrific for you. What has made the difference this time?

A (Grins) The improvement, I think, has had everything to do with the change in my thought process... One learns with time... One gets mature and, today, I do approach my batting rather differently.

Will you be specific?

Earlier, I would have too many things on my mind... I would think about the way I should bat, but would also be thinking of other things... I realised I’ve got to hit straight and, most important, have a clear mind. (After a pause) I suppose I read situations better, too.

Did you, at any time this season, seek somebody’s help to change your thought process?

Coach Greg Chappell... He believes batting has a lot to do with thinking... That the mind comes into play in a big way.

That you’re now a regular in the Test XI must also have helped...

Definitely... The one-day game isn’t easy, but your mettle is really tested in Test cricket... Doing well (in Tests) lifts the level of confidence.

Is there any one innings which raised your confidence?

Two against Sri Lanka ? 77 not out in the New Delhi Test and 75 in Motera... In both places, I’d got a duck in the first innings...

You got an excellent hundred in the Karachi Test (122 in the second innings)...

Actually, having settled down, I should have got a big one in the first innings as well ? instead, I fell for 45... That’s a regret, just as I regret not getting a big score in the first innings of the recent Mumbai Test... Having got to 37, I ought to have carried on... As I’ve told you, it’s important to make the most of form.

Being Man of the Series in the ODIs in Pakistan must have lifted your confidence, too... A month-and-half later, what are your thoughts?

I kept things simple... I was thinking well, I was batting well... Circumstances permitting, I wanted to bat till the end and was unbeaten in three of the five matches.

For a while, there were fears that the hamstring injury in the last ODI (Karachi) could keep you out of the first two if not all three Tests versus England. Your recovery was remarkable and you only missed the first one...

That’s because the support staff did a great job and I was myself determined not to miss much cricket at a time I was playing well.

Given the competition nowadays, do players feel insecure if they’ve got to sit out owing to injuries?

(Grins again) I can talk for myself... No, I don’t feel that way... I’ve never been concerned about who is just behind me or... My approach to life and cricket is straight: Whatever is destined is going to happen.

What’s the No.1 change from the Yuvraj of October 2000 to the Yuvraj of the present times?

I was raw then... I’m not saying I’m technically perfect now, but I definitely wasn’t correct then... My footwork has improved, my fielding has got better, my thought process is better... One grows ? both as a person and a cricketer ? with experience...

Have you thought in terms of a defining moment?

The Test series against Sri Lanka, last December... It gave me self-belief and I was able to perform under pressure...

The more you’re succeeding, the greater the pressure. How do you keep it to a minimum?

Honestly, I thrive in pressure situations... I challenge myself in pressure situations... Indeed, I use pressure situations to try and reach the next level... Pressure doesn’t weigh me down... The only thing I tell myself when I walk into a pressure situation is that it’s tailormade for me... My thoughts are positive.

Have you, in almost six years of international cricket, learnt more from somebody in particular?

I’ve been influenced by a lot of good people and I was fortunate to have made my debut at a time the Team India dressing room had a lot of good seniors... I was helped by John Wright and, now, it’s Chappell... Today, Rahul (Dravid) is a very good captain... I’ve had one-on-ones with him and those discussions have centered around what has made him the player he is... We’ve spoken about the right approach... At times, I’ve also interacted exclusively with Sachin (Tendulkar).

What’s the “right approach”?

Pushing yourself... Striving for the next level... Improving as a person, too...

The next level?

For me, it’s being consistent in Tests.

Recently, Dravid told us it’s not difficult ‘selling’ fresh challenges (in the dressing room)

That’s because of the standards he himself has set... Because of the example he sets...

Your reflexes haven’t slowed one bit... In fact, you keep getting better on the field. What’s the secret?

Hard work and more hard work. Ricky Ponting has been an inspiration... He’s brilliant even at 31... Jonty Rhodes also kept getting better and better.

What’s your take on young Suresh Raina?

(Laughs) I see myself in him... He’s always doing something... Is active, is electric...

At different times this season, Sourav Ganguly and you were competing for one berth. Did that lead to awkward moments?

Never, because Sourav and I have always shared an excellent rapport... We were cool about it... There won’t ever be any unpleasantness because of the respect I have for Sourav... I haven’t forgotten what he did for me when I was new in the team... He backed me and he backed other youngsters... Bhajji (Harbhajan Singh), Ashish Nehra, Veeru (Virender Sehwag)...

You’ve yourself become a senior pro...

I remain a youngster... I’m only 24!

The vice-captaincy came your way towards the end of the tour of Pakistan... How did you react?

I was standing-in for Veeru, but it was a proud moment...

Did the fact that you were vice-captain influence your decision to continue batting (in Karachi) despite the hamstring injury?

Not at all... The physio (John Gloster) felt I could stay on and I followed his advice... Also, we were then at a critical stage of our chase... Vice-captain or not, I wouldn’t have come off.

Sunil Gavaskar and Intikhab Alam have gone on record saying you have the qualities to captain India... In time to come, will you be thinking of the top job?

(After a pause) If I’m destined to lead, then... Today, I want to raise the bar and help India win many more matches... At a later stage, I may think about it (the captaincy)... If I’m to get it one day, I’ve got to be mentally prepared... Having seen Sourav and Rahul do the job, I know it’s tough... Facing the Media after a defeat... Facing fans after a loss... The pressure on an Indian captain is just too much.

Do you admire any captain?

I admired Sourav and I admire Rahul... Sourav was superb... He backed match-winners... Rahul, too, is doing a very good job... In my opinion, he reached the next level (as captain) when he decided to open in all three Tests in Pakistan... It’s not easy for a makeshift opener to face somebody like Shoaib Akhtar, who isn’t far from the 100 mph-mark, and that decision made everybody respect him even more... Rahul is bound to get better as the selectors have appointed him till the World Cup... A new captain needs time.

What about captains outside India?

Stephen Fleming is good... We played together for Yorkshire, in 2003, and I quite enjoyed discussing the game with him... Then, Ponting... He was a great batsman before he got the job and, today, enjoys an even higher reputation... The way he lifted himself ? and Australia ? after the Ashes debacle has been amazing.

To go back a little... Did you feel done in when you were dropped (in 2004-05) despite not getting a reasonable run as Test opener?

I felt bad, not cheated... I should have got more opportunities, but... Of course, I learnt you’ve got to be slotted in the position best suited for the team.

Is there a bowler whom you respect more than the others?

Brett Lee... It’s not only his speed, but the enthusiasm he brings to quick bowling that sets him apart.

For the first couple of years, at least, many felt you weren’t serious enough about cricket... You would, for example, regularly be seen with attractive women... Did you consciously change yourself?

Look, you can’t be somebody people want you to be... Even if you just talk to somebody or sit down with somebody for a few minutes, that gets blown out of proportion by the Media... I accept there’s glamour in cricket, but people must not be unfair... If anything, I’ve changed my work ethic and, by doing so, have improved my thought process.

Are you worried about failure? Worried you could be booed like Sachin (in Mumbai)?

The Mumbai crowd shocked me... It’s okay if an Yuvraj or somebody else gets booed, but Sachin? Those who showed such disrespect should have spent the money educating themselves instead of turning up at the Wankhede.

The final one: Since when have you been carrying a lap-top?

(Laughs again) Two-three years... Gives that educated image!