Yuvraj Singh, captain of IPL team Kings XI Punjab, has Hiren Kotwani stumped about his journey from his brief stint in Punjabi films to captaining an international team...
Today, your team plays its first match in IPL Season Two. How are you feeling?
Positive, after the series win in New Zealand. Team effort is what matters at the end of the day. If we gel well as a unit, we can beat the Delhi Daredevils too.
How’s your form?
Not as great as I would have liked it to be. (Shrugs) Happens sometimes. Still, I’m looking forward to IPL Season 2. I’m sure I’ll play well and enjoy the game.
So we can expect a flurry of big hits over the fence from you.. may be six sixes in one over?
(Smiles) One can’t plan these things. They just happen. I’m looking forward to some big hitting.. carrying on from where I left off last season. Let’s see.
With players vying against each other, how will you ensure that tempers don’t flare up and we don’t have another Slapgate controversy this season?
As a captain, I’ve to ensure that things don’t get out of control and the game is played in the right spirit. Just because something happened once, doesn’t mean that there is going to be a repeat. It’s not right to keep harping about the Bhajji (Harbhajan Singh) and Sreesanth incident. We’ve moved on.
Would it be easy for you to be objective if an Australian or an English player says something unsavoury about your Indian teammate?
When it’s Kings XI Punjab, it’s the team that matters and nothing else. Every player is an important part of the team, irrespective of whether he’s from Australia, England, New Zealand or India. So I don’t think I’ve to worry about any two of my players having any differences between themselves.
How confident are you of winning matches without bowlers like Brett Lee and Sreesanth?
Bret and Sree might not be there with us from the start, but they will join us soon. Nonetheless, I’m happy with the way the rest of the boys have been playing.
The first season began on a slow note for you and your team. What’s your strategy to stay ahead of the competition this time around?
Although we didn’t win the first two matches, we went on to win the next 10 in a row, last year. The team has its rhythm and form now. I’m sure we’ll be playing well right from the word go.
It’s believed that Sreesanth will perform before every match featuring Kings XI Punjab.
I don’t know about that. It’s his decision, so I can’t comment on it. Maybe initially, when he may not be playing, to feel a part of the team. And I doubt if he will be performing once he starts playing.
Changing uniforms hasn’t always been lucky for a team.. Kings XI Punjab have a new one this season?
Team India changed colours too for the New Zealand tour. And though we started out badly, it worked for us at the end. The series ended on a happy note.
Reebok came up with a fabulous design for Kings XI. The material is light and comfortable. It allows the skin to breathe easily and doesn’t affect your playing when you are sweating it out in the field. The new uniform should work for us. At one time, white was the colour for cricket. Then it was blue. Now it’s red for Punjab, blue for Mumbai.
Earlier, colours were used to distinguish teams of different nations. They gave the team its identity.. and individuality. They still do. But now the emphasis is on the fabric and style too. It’s important to be comfortable when playing. Why only outfits? Even shoes are being redesigned regularly for added comfort and protection. Reebok has been experimenting with our sole mates for years.
Hasn’t interest in the IPL waned after the venue shifted to South Africa?
Not really. Agreed that those who were looking forward to seeing the matches in stadiums in India would be disappointed, but I’m sure there are many NRIs in South Africa who will be pleased with the shift in venue and coming in to watch the matches.
The telecasts, I am sure, will generate high TRPs as people back home will be glued to their televisions. Match timings have been scheduled keeping the Indian prime time in mind.
Couldn’t the clash with elections have been averted?
Elections are important.. it is very necessary to have a good and able government at the center, more so in these days of the global meltdown.
Will you dash back to vote?
I don’t know, depends on whether we have a game scheduled around polling day.
How prepared are you for the pacy South African pitches?
I’ve played in South African at least five-six times earlier, so I’m familiar with them. It’s the end of the season there, so the pitches will be really quick. The Durban pitch will definitely be bouncy and pacy.. we’re prepared for that.
The T20 format has eroded the popularity of One Day Internationals and Test matches. You agree?
No, a five-day Test is still the toughest form of the game because one needs to perform well, individually and collectively as a team to push for a result. If you win a Test it’s a big high! The attack on Sri Lankan players in Pakistan has left players shaken.
And with the LTTE conflict raging on, Asia is considered an unsafe destination today. Comment.
Hey, terror attacks have taken place in the US and UK too, so how can you say Asia is unsafe? Incidents happen.. it’s sad! Countries need to take measures to counter and stop them. Apt policies need to be discussed internationally and executed to tackle the issue of terrorism.
What’s your take on sports being politicised in our country?
I’ve heard complaints that those heading associations have never played sports in their life. But tell me, can you guarantee that a sportsperson will be an able administrator? We need able and capable people to take charge of sports bodies because the players are caught up with practicing and playing. You need people to see that the day-to-day functioning goes off without any hitches.
As a child, you followed in your father Yograj Singh’s footsteps and ventured into acting with Punjabi films like Mehndi Shangana Di.
How did cricket happen?
Actually, I wasn’t so keen on cricket to make it my career initially. It was my father who forced me into playing the game to the best of my abilities. So, whatever I have achieved.. where I am today.. is thanks to my father. In retrospect, I’m glad I became a cricketer and not an actor. I can do Balle balle on the field.. with the bat and ball. Yippee!