Yuvraj Singh: 'Doing the right things'

I am training hard and have the confidence of getting the runs. I feel I still have a lot to offer, and I will do my best to regain my place in the side. I will do all that I can to get the call from the selectors, and take it from there.

"I loved my knock at Lahli (against Madhya Pradesh) where I made runs on a challenging pitch. I was hit all over but the runs I made could not have been more precious. It told me that there was nothing wrong with my cricket," Yuvraj said.   -  R. V. Moorthy

For the Indian team management, he is still very much in the scheme of things. On his part, Yuvraj Singh backs himself to make the national team and serve with the same passion and flair that he had shown at Nairobi in 2000 where his international career began.

READ: >When Yuvraj played Santa

"You will always find me batting this way,” he had told this writer after that innings of 84 against Australia in his debut series, on a challenging pitch against an attack comprising Glenn McGrath, Brett Lee and Jason Gillespie. In over 15 years, Yuvraj has indeed not compromised his batting style.

PHOTO STORY: >Yuvraj Singh ties the knot

He speaks to Sportstar about the Ranji Trophy season and his prospects for the coming year.

Question: How would you sum up your 2016?

Answer: It has been a mixed sort of year. I started 2016 on a good note by getting back into the Indian T20 side, but got injured at a very crucial juncture during the World T20 game against Australia at Mohali. I had to miss a few IPL games as well. But, then, we (Hyderabad Sunrisers) had a great season and won the tournament. After that, I got back to domestic cricket and scored some runs to stake my claim. And then the year ended with my getting married. It was a year that made me a better cricketer because I was able to make a realistic assessment of my game. I discovered that my passion had not ebbed a bit.

Speaking of the IPL, that triumph was missing from your CV, and you played your part to make that happen for your franchise...

Yes, winning the IPL was a big moment. I wanted to be in the side that lifted the IPL trophy, and I had to wait a good nine years. We played very well as a unit and the results are there for everyone to see. I am happy I played my part too. Coming out of injury and getting straight into high-intensity action is never easy. But I am glad I played a few crucial knocks to help my team to the top.

After 16 years of international cricket, how tough is it to go back to the basics and play domestic cricket?

It is very tough, and one has to be extremely motivated to do this. It is like starting all over again. It brought back memories of my early days in competitive cricket. But if you have the desire to excel and the willingness to do anything to make a comeback, then that’s how you are going to do it. I still feel I have few more years of cricket left in me, and I will do all it takes to get back into the side and win games for India.

And you did quite well by getting big scores...

Yes, before taking a break for my wedding, I had a very good run and got close to 700 runs in five matches. So that’s very satisfying. My job is to get on the ground and get runs. I loved my knock at Lahli (against Madhya Pradesh) where I made runs on a challenging pitch. I was hit all over but the runs I made could not have been more precious. It told me that there was nothing wrong with my cricket.

What do you have to say about the Indian team’s performance and the youngsters doing so well?

It’s amazing to see the way the Indian team has played this season. On good wickets they have fought well to win those Test matches comprehensively. A lot of credit goes to Virat Kohli who has led from the front. A lot of credit also goes to the systems and the processes which are in place. Look at the way the entire India-A plan has worked in the last few years under Rahul Dravid. There is a huge pool of talent and a very healthy competition for places.

How has the A-team plan worked?

One has to understand that there is a difference (in standard) between International cricket and the Ranji Trophy-level. To fill that void you need a platform that can bridge the distance. I think the BCCI, in the last few years, has worked very well in this area. The Board brought in Dravid and organised more matches against good quality sides. You can see the difference. At least the early signs are encouraging; players like Jayant Yadav and Karun Nair have turned up well-prepared for this platform. Even players like K. L. Rahul, Parthiv Patel and Cheteshwar Pujara have benefited. The Indian team is spoilt for choice. Now see what a headache the team management will have before the next Test! Currently, we are the only side which is in Top-3 in all three formats. Someone must be doing something right there.

But the BCCI has come in for criticism for its administration. What’s your view on it?

I can’t comment on the issues between the BCCI and the judiciary, but my personal experience over the years has been fantastic. Right from the under-16 days to international cricket, we’ve had opportunities, exposure and guidance. When I went through the toughest phase of my life with cancer, the BCCI stood right behind me. My treatment was taken care of and the recovery plan was so well executed at the National Cricket Academy. I felt so secure. And that’s what you want from your parent body. With all due respect, I really doubt if any other sports body will do so much for its players. And it is just not me; current, past and up and coming cricketers, everyone is financially well-rewarded by the BCCI. I am confident that the best decision will be taken in the interests of cricket and cricketers. There is always room for improvement but cricket, overall, is well-administered.

What is your take on playing Ranji Trophy matches at neutral venues?

I wish there was something for the spinners on the fourth day. The batting standards have improved, with players now having a positive attitude.

What are your views of the international cricket scene?

These are very interesting times for cricket. The game is constantly evolving, and there is so much at stake for everyone. The three formats demand different skills and have a different following. Cricket has become a more skilful game. My only concern is the dwindling audience for domestic cricket, and Test cricket at most venues. Administrators need to address this because throwing open the gates won’t solve the problem of poor audience. We have to attract spectators to the ground.

How do you visualise your career from now?

I am training hard and have the confidence of getting the runs. I feel I still have a lot to offer, and I will do my best to regain my place in the side. I will do all that I can to get the call from the selectors, and take it from there.