Struggling for the most part of 2010,Yuvraj Singh didn’t even seem like making the World Cup squad. But not for the first time did he prove his critics wrong,as the 29-year-old came up with an all-round performance to guide his team to the trophy an effort that bagged him the Man-of-the-Tournament award. In a chat with The Indian Express,Yuvraj reflects on the eventful one and a half months that earned him a permanent place in Indian cricket’s pantheon of greats. Excerpts.
Has the feeling that you have conquered the world sunk in?
It has been five days since India won the World Cup,but to be honest it’s still hard to believe that we are the world champions. It was one of the biggest days in my life and for my other team mates. We all dreamed to lift the Cup,especially after the bitterness of 2007 World Cup and the last two T20 World Championships where we did not fare well. And now this dream is a reality and I still dont have words to describe my feelings. I saw the fans celebrating on roads,it looked as if it was Diwali or Holi for them. And thats the greatest thing for me. I am so happy that in our own small way we have managed to bring some joy in the lives of our countrymen.
How did you keep the pressure at bay during the matches?
I had to go through various stages while handling the pressure in this World Cup. When I started I had this pressure to perform. I had to overcome my own expectations. Once I got the fifty against England things changed from there. With each match my confidence kept growing and by the quarter final stage the pressure of expectations grew. I was more focused and relaxed but at the same time more conscious about my role and responsibilities in the side. I wanted to stay there till the end to win games for India. For me the Australia game was truly special. I dont know why but for last one year I always dreamt of doing well against the Australians. Staying there till the end and beating them. That effort gave me lot of satisfaction and lifted my morale.
You have been part of the World Cup winning U-19 team,also member of the T20 World Championship winning team in 2007 and now this. It is a huge achievement. How do you look back at your career?
The journey has been full of highs and lows. Last year I used to wonder if I would ever recover from this poor form and streak of injuries. But I had faith in God and his timing. He kept the best for me when it mattered. And thats been the story of my life. Looking back at Under-19 World Cup and the T-20 wins,it feels wonderful that in each win I played my part. And In 2011 WC also I played some part. Although I still carry this disappointment of not playing Test cricket regularly. Hopefully things will change from here and given a chance I would like to make the most of it. Despite playing for a decade,I still crave so much for Test cricket,doing well in the whites,winning matches and series for India. Hopefully that should happen soon.
How would you describe Wahab Riaz’s in swinging yorker which got you out in Mohali vs Pakistan?
I have tried so much to forget it. It was a great delivery first up. First ball,released at good pace with lot of late swing and movement,before I could get my feet moving,my stumps were knocked off. Such a delivery is actually a batsmans nightmare. And I am glad that it didnt cost us much and finally we beat Pakistan.
Is Narendra Hirwani a happy coach after your 15 wickets in the Cup? What has been his influence on your bowling?
Hiru bhai has helped me a lot with my bowling. I started working with him during the Corporate Trophy where he was our Air India coach. He advised some changes in my bowling style and action and I worked on it very hard. I am delighted that hard work paid off well. Today I have a five-wicket haul in One Day cricket,my team mates now call me Bish.
When Sachin and Sehwag got out early in the final,you were in the dressing with pads on and plugged in. What was going on in your mind at that time?
First of all,I never thought that the chase was beyond our reach. There was no panic at all. Despite losing two wickets up front we never allowed the run rate to go up. Gautam Gambhir played a gem of an innings and Virat played really well to get us back in the game. And then Dhoni played an exceptional knock to see us through. All through the tournament we have been saying that batting is our strength,and when it was tested we came out with flying colors.
You broke down after Dhoni hit the winning six. How overwhelmed were you?
It was moment where emotions got better of us. I was on the pitch in tears,as if all the feelings,all the pressures and expectations were released in one moment. It was a huge sense of achievement and satisfaction. So whatever we were saying was outpouring of emotions and joy.
The South African brigade of Gary Kirsten,Paddy Upton and Eric Simmons has had tremendous impact in building team India in the last two years. Please share your experience with each of them.
Each of them has played a huge role in restructuring my game. Gary always had immense faith in my ability and he backed me to go all the way. On and off the field he went extra yard to give me extra time. Those long never tiring throw downs and long chats on the game are now invaluable part of my comeback and will stay with me forever. Paddy helped me to heal mentally. During your tough times,its your mind which needs to re-focus,re-arrange,because your ability is always there. Its just that doubts in mind create that hindrance in the execution of ability. In front of Paddy I could say anything and express all kind of anxieties and doubts. He is a very patient listener and then he helped me to overcome all of that. Whether it was through books or long chats,he created that positive frame of mind with which I could see things in right perspective and perform. Eric helped me improve my bowling. He always pushed me as a bowler and went to the extent of saying that I am the fifth bowler of the side. I read somewhere he has said that I can be the third bowler in Test cricket and thats very humbling. I will miss them all.
After the Australia match you announced that you were playing the WC for a special person and later revealed that it was Sachin Tendulkar. What sort of relationship do you share with him?
Sachin paaji is like a big brother to me. He is a genius with 21 years of unwavering commitment and service to the game. His mere presence is such a motivating factor for all of us. I so much wanted to do this for him. He has done so much for Indian cricket and in our small way we wanted to give him something. I am glad we could help him to live his dream. Before the World Cup I had a long chat with him and that really helped me a lot. He gave me lot of support and backing. And when this kind of help comes from a man like him it can do wonders to your confidence. I will always be thankful for what he has done for me.