Jayant Yadav: ‘You don’t need motivation for something that you enjoy and love’

In an interview, the India off-spinner shares his thoughts on his comeback to the Test team, the road ahead for him, and more.

At the Wankhede Stadium last week, Jayant Yadav played his first Test after more than four years.   -  PTI

The Wankhede Stadium has been special for Jayant Yadav. In 2016, he slammed a century against England, becoming the first Indian batter to hit a Test ton from No. 9, and also shared a 241-run stand with Virat Kohli, guiding the team to an innings win.

While he looked set for a longer stint in the Indian team, Yadav played just one more Test after that - against Australia in 2017 - and fell out of favour in the longer format.

He, however, returned to the team in style, picking a total of five wickets to guide India to a convincing 372-run win against New Zealand in the second Test, earlier this week. While he was happy to be back at his lucky venue - the Wankhede Stadium - Yadav’s good show has now earned him a slot in the squad for India’s tour of South Africa.

On a short break before flying out to South Africa, Yadav shared his thoughts with Sportstar on his comeback, the road ahead for him, and more…

Q. It took you almost five years to return to India’s Test team. How would you rate your performance in the Mumbai Test?

A. For any player, being able to represent the country is the foremost thing he can dream of. For me, coming back after a long period of time, it was a mixture of lots of emotions. There was definite joy, excitement, at the same time, nervousness, butterflies in the stomach - a lot of things were going on and it is difficult to put it in words. If I have to sum it up, I would say that I was grateful to have got another opportunity to represent my country.

In the second Test, you came in for injured Ravindra Jadeja. So before you took the field, what was the instruction from the team management?

There were no specific instructions per se. The best thing about Virat (Kohli) and Rahul (Dravid) bhai is that they let you be. They back you to express yourself on the field in whatever way you want. That exemplifies their style of play. On the field, Virat lets you do whatever you want to do, and that backing players to the hilt helps a lot.

How confident were you about getting a call-up for the South Africa tour?

To be honest, on the last day after I took those four wickets and we won the game, I was just expecting to go back home and be with my family. I did not think too much about the future and what will happen. I think that’s a very important, yet very difficult thing to do. But now that the squad for the tour is announced and I am there, I am looking forward to enjoying the experience.

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The South African conditions usually favour the fast bowlers. How do you plan to approach the series?

I am not having too much of expectations of how things will happen or what will happen. I am just trying to talk to a lot of people who have been to South Africa in the past and just experience it to the best of my abilities. I have not thought too far about things. I will take it as it comes and see how the future holds.

In 2016, that century against England was one of the highest points in your career. But you had to wait for so long to make a comeback. How did you stay motivated?

One important thing we often to tend to forget is the fact that when we started this game, we pursued it because we loved and enjoyed it. Over the years, you learn a lot and after I was dropped, I knew that I had to enjoy my game and everything else will eventually fall into place. You don’t need motivation for something that you enjoy and love. So, that was the whole thing.

The Indian team currently has a star-studded spin department. Now that you are back in the scheme of things, how do you see this healthy competition?

I have played just one match in five years, so to be compared to Ash (Ravichandran Ashwin) or Jaddu (Jadeja) or Axar (Patel) would not be fair to me nor them. They have been there, done that over a period of time. But yes, there is a healthy competition and at the same time, everyone can learn from each other. When you are having a conversation with Ash and Jaddu around, they feed off each other. As young players in the Test arena, we would like to learn and grow. We try to take as much as we can from them and then implement those games in our game. That’s the whole idea.

Even though you were out of the national reckoning for nearly five years, you played regularly for the Haryana team, along with the likes of Yuzvendra Chahal, and also in the IPL. How much have those stints helped you grow as a cricketer?

When I was away from Test cricket, one very important factor that kept me going was the Ranji Trophy. The way our association (Haryana Cricket Association) back the players and ensure that the players get all the benefits is incredible. So, I would like to thank my State association and in particular Anirudh (Chaudhary) sir. Sometimes, it is difficult to see how he works behind the scenes to make sure that every player is looked after, so I would like to thank him.

In the Indian dressing room, when Ash and Jaddu are bowling or are having a conversation, the youngsters try to learn from them. Similarly, when me and Chahal play, or when Rahul Tewatia, Mohit Sharma or Harshal Patel are around, we have a responsibility towards our State. When we were young, they supported us through the thick and thin. So, when we play for the team, it is our responsibility to ensure that Haryana cricket progresses. We try and win tournaments and take things forward.

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