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I ask myself is it actually happenning, is it real?

On the day of India's biggest WC match, we bring you the player who has been the cornerstone of this team. Yuvraj uncorked...

india Updated: Mar 30, 2011 00:51 IST
Dinesh Chopra

He is on a hot streak in this World Cup, India's X-factor with both bat and ball and the man who every Indian fan hopes will deliver victory in the semi-final against Pakistan, and the final on April 2.

In an exclusive interview to Hindustan Times, Yuvraj Singh talks about how it all turned around for him. His mentors, critics, and how the Pakistan match should not be seen as a life and death affair.

Yuvraj, if someone had told you before the World Cup you'd get four man-of-the-match awards in seven games, would you have believed it?
Not at all! I'd have said he was pulling a fast one on me. It is such a turn around that sometimes I actually ask myself, 'is this happening, is it real?'

People have created an image that I am aloof, but these performances mean the world to me. Earlier, I had sleepless nights out of distress, these days it is due to a strange, happy feeling. Weird!

So, would you say that the turnaround is complete?
It's never complete...never ever. In sport there is always room for improvement.

Whenever I see my innings against the West Indies or Australia, I think, may be, I could have done this better or should have changed that. See, cricket is a skill game and one can always improve upon the impact one has on an innings.

What according to you was the turning point?
I think the first boundary I hit against the West Indies off Ravi Rampaul in the Chennai game helped my confidence. It was a pull, and he is reasonably quick. I saw the ball early, swivelled on the back foot, timed it well and it went for a four. See, it is my movements that give me confidence, the way I transfer my weight from one foot to the other is the key.

We thought it's your new-grown beard that is getting you luck!
I wish the beard alone could have got me the runs and man-of-the-match awards. If that was the case I'd never shave! I just keep it for a change, and I know my teammates do not like it. Sometimes it is done to irritate them (laughs).

So, what else have you changed to lift your game?
Nothing. It is all the same - my set up, my movements, my backlift, etc. My confidence was rock bottom sometime back, maybe that has changed.

Your bowling has earned you some nicknames...
Well, again, I'm happy to get wickets for the team, but embarrassed when my team-mates call me 'Bishan', as in Bishan Singh Bedi. I hope Bishan paaji doesn't get to know about this!

How important was your bowling success to do well as a batsman?
Very important. I was glad I had something to fall back on when the runs weren't coming for the last 18 months.
I'm a proud man and would never want to be baggage for the team. That is where bowling helped. The runs had dried up, but I was getting wickets or bowling economically, and that kept me afloat.

Who or what do you think has helped you in this turnaround?
I have worked really hard on my game, but I think my mother has been a real pillar of strength. She has prayed a lot, sacrificed a lot for me. You know, she hasn't seen me bat so far. When I am batting she is praying… mothers are like that, aren't they?

Sachin Tendulkar has also been a great support. He has been like an elder brother to me, guiding me through, being a mentor. Tendulkar has seen it all and he'd always tell me to believe in my abilities and just concentrate on preparing well rather than worrying about the results. I must thank him.

And, maybe thank your critics as well?
I am not sure! I don't know why I was the favourite whipping boy of the media before the World Cup. I have been accused of things that I have never done. I have been called a perpetrator of incidents while I was actually a peacemaker. I really don't know why. Yuvraj Singh isn't a party animal, he is just singled out. I don't know why.

And for the game against Pakistan, what is more challenging - getting tickets for friends or keeping emotions in check?
(Laughs) Tough one...passes and tickets can wait. Even I can hardly get my hands on any. But this game between India and Pakistan is important.

I don't believe in this being the game of my life, or the clash of the century, and all that jazz. It is a game which is there to be won. Yes, emotions will be high, and that is not new.

Is the unbeaten record against Pakistan a big plus?
I think it is one of the positives, as we are not carrying any baggage.

I think our clashes against Australia, South Africa and high-pressure games in the IPL have all contributed to help us control our emotions better. Having a neutral voice in the dressing room like Gary Kirsten is a big plus as well.

But what if India lose?
Well, we'll prepare well, give our best and leave the rest to destiny.

A loss will be disappointing, to say the least. But let it be just a game.

(Dinesh Chopra works for ESPN's sportscenter)