When the Chennai Super Kings played the Kings XI Punjab last month in the IPL, Suresh Raina copped a earful as soon as he walked out to the middle. Standing close, Yuvraj Singh tried his best to get Raina to have a go early on. “It was all good fun, just having a word, because we felt he was one of the big players in the opposition,” said Yuvraj.
After 50 days of squaring off against each other, the India team is back together, and when you look at the line-up you shudder.
The talent in the Indian squad is so serious that, with all respect to Afghanistan and their fairytale rise, the chances of an upset are about as high as Sachin Tendulkar making a comeback to T20 cricket. Why, even South Africa, who India play on Sunday, are man-for-man a lesser team.
The challenge for India, who pitched up at the Beausejour Stadium on Thursday, is to come together as quickly as possible. This format gives few second chances to come back into the reckoning, and as India found out in the last T20 World Cup, the line between qualifying for the semifinals and ignominy is so fine you can't even see it at times.
A few bad overs on a given day, an opposition batsman having the day of his life, and you could be on a long flight home.
To be on top of their game, India need to achieve that state where they're mentally relaxed yet completely focussed when required. “This is a team that plays together through the year. The boys are your brothers, like your family,” said Yuvraj.
“We have a fantastic coach and team management. I love every moment of being with the team. It definitely lifts your morale. You are travelling with your mates, it is a good mental state to be in.”
Even before practice, the camaraderie was there to see. Dinesh Karthik, who isn't even sure of getting a game, watched in rapt attention as Yuvraj and Zaheer Khan spoke to the media. “We went out for dinner in a big group,” said Zaheer. “Naturally, a lot of the talk was about the IPL, and we exchanged plenty of stories.”
When it came to talking about cricket, and the tournament ahead, the tone was clear. “We don’t discuss negative aspects of the game. We always talk about positive things, how to get the best out of each other,” said Yuvraj. “We talk about how we can keep each other happy, how we can have fun.”
This team knows only too well that the best way, and as far as their demanding fans are concerned, the only way to have fun is to win.