'Mantra is never to give up'

Interview

'Mantra is never to give up'

Fighting hard to make another comeback, Yuvraj Singh talks about the challenges in his life and his way of tackling them

Yuvraj Singh is truly the king of comebacks but that also means he has found himself out of the national squad those many times -- sometimes for want of form and more often because of the myriad types of injuries he has suffered during his near 14-year international career. 

The hero of India’s 2011 World Cup triumph has seen more downs than ups since then – from fighting cancer to struggling to regain fitness to battling bad form. With the 2015 World Cup just a year away, Yuvraj understands he needs to get amongst runs in whatever cricket he gets to play from now on to stand a chance of making it to the quadrennial event Down Under. 

In a freewheeling chat with Deccan Herald, the stylish left-hander discusses his health struggles and future. Excerpts.

Like many times before in your career, you had a fine comeback (against Australia in a T20 match late last year) and then things didn’t work for you. With the 2015 World Cup just about a year away, how do you fancy your chances?

It’s been disappointing that the way I batted in the T20 match, I couldn’t continue in the same way, unfortunately missing out on scoring in a few games. I did get a 50 against West Indies (in Kanpur) and I was hoping that in the next few opportunities I would get better but things didn’t quite go my way. Now I need to look ahead. I am working on my game, have been getting starts like 30s and 40s but have not been able to convert them. In whatever cricket I get to play from now on, I need to produce some big runs and try and get back into the best of forms. I am looking forward to the season ahead like Ranji Trophy one-dayers, the WorldT20. So let’s see what happens in the coming few months.

You are among World T20 probables, how much confidence do you gain from that?

The only confidence you can gain is from scoring runs. That’s what I need to do rather than thinking what’s happening around me like selections and other stuff. I just need to focus on my batting and sort out my batting and get to my full potential. World T20 is an event, where I want to make the best of the opportunity if I get one.

You went abroad with Zaheer Khan to work on your fitness...

We just wanted to be away from all the distractions and focus just on our training. Not knowing anyone, focussing on our diet, training and getting back to our best of fitness levels. That’s what is required when you are 32 or 33. If you want to play for the next four or five years in whatever competitions you get to, you want to be fit. Zak and I thought about that and took a break. I think it was very helpful for both of us.

How do you deal with situations when things don’t work out despite putting in the hard yards?

Well, you got to just accept it. It’s a hard fact to accept that you are working hard and give everything to the game and still things are not working. But then you can’t fight time, that’s what I have learnt from all these years of playing. May be time will change and hopefully things will fall in place. You just got to follow your routines, work hard, try and learn all the time. And that’s what I am focussing on right now.

You have had many injuries while enjoying great run. How tough has it been to motivate yourself?

There have been a few major setbacks in my career but I have always bounced back. I have always shown the character to fight back from setbacks. It’s been tough on the body, recovering from injuries to coming back from cancer. Obviously, I am at a stage where I don’t want to give up and want to continue. It’s a stage where batsmen peak and I just hope I achieve that. I will have the IPL and domestic games to do it to the best of my ability. I just keep fighting hard and moving on in life. It’s not easy to move on but this game really makes you mentally tough. The mantra is not to give up. 

Has overcoming cancer helped you put your career setbacks in right perspective?

Yeah, it was a major setback and overcoming it was the biggest challenge for me in my life. After I that I understood why I like playing cricket and what’s the reason for me to play cricket.

You appear a lot more calm and composed now...

I think it’s to do with my treatment, coming out of cancer and understanding life. Earlier, it was all about playing cricket -- getting up, training, thinking about performing and your game. Now I feel that there is more to life than just cricket. Yes, cricket still is one of the most important things for me but when a person like me breathes a fresh air or even has a nice meal, you understand the value of life which I really didn’t before. And also, the calmer you are in your life there are more chances of getting out of a difficult situation earlier than you would imagine.

Do you think coming back from cancer has changed your flamboyant image off the field?

People don’t look at me anymore like a guy who is going out and chilling out. Those were the days when I was a young kid but you grow up, you learn, you become a man and things change in life. People look at me as someone who is a fighter, a survivor and they look at me more seriously now. And that’s my responsibility to tell people to fight back from setbacks. The days when my mom would open page 3 of a newspaper and say ‘what’s this, Yuvi?!’ are behind me. To a large extent, it’s also a public perception. If your batting is flamboyant that doesn’t mean you are a flamboyant person also.

Do you feel you are an underachiever?

Definitely I have been an underachiever given my talent and my assessment of talent by the people. But the truth is I have left no stone unturned and I have always tried my level best. I have worked the hardest to realise my potential and I have given it everything. Hopefully, in the next couple of years I will do justice to my talent but if not, then that’s my destiny I guess.

Your Test statistics too don’t do justice to your talent...

Obviously I played in an era when we had really great Test batsmen. Yes, I should have continued after that (once they retired) but with my health cases, the issues were different. Also, not focussing enough on the Test format didn’t help my cause. I have played about 40-odd Test matches (he has played 40 Tests) and by this stage if I had played 70-80 Tests, things would have been different. But there are things that didn’t go my way. But that’s life... If everything goes your way, there are no issues in life. I just need to be thinking positive because next year is the World Cup.
  
 Did you ever get affected by burden of expectations?

It’s always been the case. When you score 80, people say you should have made a 100. And if you score a 100, they want you to get 150... But if you see my career graph, for the first six-seven years I have mostly batted at number 6 where you don’t get many chances of scoring big. But there have been many instances when I have scored a 40 or a 50 and won the match. So, you have to look at your role. People’s expectations will never die down but I think you need to prove it to yourself that you are good enough, that you can still carry on and you need to understand your role as a batsman. Batting higher up the order, you expect to play bigger innings. Hopefully in the next couple of years I might be able to that.

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