He has refused to speak to the media since he was dropped from the Indian team for the Asia Cup. And he has been utilising his time in oblivion by training at the National Cricket Academy (NCA), trying to lose a few kilos and regaining the touch that made him one of Indian cricket’s biggest match winners. Breaking his silence with this interview, Yuvraj talks about persistent injuries and a persistent dream —winning the World Cup.
Q. We expected to see a rather unhappy Yuvraj Singh. But you look happy and relaxed. Are you making good use of your time outside the team?
A. Yes, it has been a little tough for me, but I am glad that this break has given me the opportunity to work on my fitness and my body. I have been putting in regular hours at the gym and giving time to myself. I’m also trying to relax a little at home. So yes, I’m making good use of my time out. When you get a bit of time out, you can also do the necessary mental adjustment and take stock of the things going wrong. I have been trying hard to identify the problems and come back stronger.
Q. Yuvi, you were at the NCA and Viru was there with you. Did that come in handy? And did you work on fine-tuning your fitness during your stint at the NCA?
A. Yes, I have been working on my fitness for the last 20 days. See, the problem has been that over the past six months, I’ve had a spate of injuries. First, I had a knee problem, then a problem with my wrist, and then a broken finger. With persistent injuries, it takes a bit of time to come back. But when you are playing for India, there’s no time to let injuries heal fully. At the NCA, I could take time off and allow my injuries to heal completely. I am nearly 100 per cent now, and will soon be where I need to be.
Q. The team is away in Sri Lanka but you are not with the team for the first time in years, leaving aside the injury-forced lay-offs. We spoke to a lot of the senior players, Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag and also skipper Mahendra Dhoni, and all said the team is incomplete without you. How do you react to that?
A. It feels very nice to get support from the boys. We have been playing together for a long time now, almost a decade to be exact, and it is nice to see the camaraderie in the team. At the moment, I can say that am trying my best to come back. I wish them all the best during their time in Sri Lanka. It is a great time and with a few good results, the T20 World Cup will be a thing of the past. In 2007, we lost the World Cup in the Caribbean and came back to win the T20 competition in South Africa. I am hoping we can do the same by winning the World Cup back home next year.
Q. As a cricketer, what matters the most—your reputation, the support of your fans, the monies now associated with the game or the fact that you are playing for the tricolour?
A. As a young kid, you always dream of playing for India and dream of wearing that logo on your head. You always cherish the tricolour and the fact that you are playing for India, something that not many in the country are able to do. I have always prided myself in having the logo on my head and on my cap. The India cap will always be one of my most prized possessions. That’s one thing you respect all your life, and every time you see the logo on your chest and inside your bag, you are struck by the realisation that you are trying to do something really important for your country. And especially in India, where cricket is religion, you need to fully comprehend the significance of the tricolour on your chest—it means a million plus will always cheer for you, even at times of adversity. That’s what you always work towards. Fans always wish well for you. I know they get disappointed when you lose and it is upon us to make sure that fans don’t feel left out. It is our duty to win for them, for all the love, affection and adulation that they heap on us. We shouldn’t be afraid of getting brickbats after seeing the kind of passion with which our fans support the game. After all, it is the fans who make cricket what it is in India, and it is our responsibility as cricketers to respect their sentiments.
Q. The fans surely are missing the explosive Yuvraj Singh on the field. Are you working on your fielding?
A. Yes, as I mentioned earlier, it has been a tough year for me with injuries never letting me to play to my potential. Things are getting better now. Playing a couple of domestic games has helped me tremendously. Just a few days earlier, in Delhi, I got a 150, and the following day, I managed a 70-plus. Hopefully, I will soon be in my best form and peak fitness and ready to come back into the team. I’d surely want to field at point in the near future. Given the injured knee, I couldn’t do so because my mobility had been affected. But I am better now and am working on my fielding to ensure that I can dive around in the way that I used to.
Q. Yuvi, there has been so much talk about your form, and other things off the field, especially the pub brawl in St Lucia and the like. The fact that India lost the World Cup was looked upon as a failure of commitment on your part. It was said that you were more interested in the IPL parties. How do you react to all this criticism?
A. Well, I wouldn’t want to comment on these matters anymore. All I can say is that I am trying my very best to get back to where I belong. I am putting in the hours and the effort and would want my bat to do the talking. The biggest one-day competition is just months away, and it will take place on Indian soil. I want to play my part in leading India to mount a serious challenge at the trophy. How good it will be to win it in Mumbai for Sachin Tendulkar! And to achieve all this, I need to get back to the peak of my fitness and my confidence. I can confidently assert that I am doing that in this time that I have away from the team. Hopefully, the results will speak in the days to come.