In the 2000 Champions Trophy a star was born for India. Yuvraj was declared Man of the Match in his first international series in Nairobi. An interview with left handed batsman from Punjab.
How did you prepare for your first international series in Nairobi?
I got a hint that I would be selected in the team during a fitness camp that preceded the tournament. I had done well in the previous tournaments and that was the key to my selection. It was almost a new team that was selected for Kenya and I got my break.
Zaheer Khan and you were the babies of the team. What did the seniors tell you?
Yes, we were the babies. I still remember Sourav Ganguly and seniors like Dravid and Tendulkar telling me that it would be meaningless if I could not sustain my stay at the top. This advice helped me in my preparations. I gave a lot of importance to their advice because I had a bitter experience when I was selected for the Punjab team the first time. I felt I was not welcome in the Punjab side but not in the Indian team. Zaheer and I felt really comfortable.
Your memories of the match against Australia…
I scored 84 and things changed overnight. I remember when I came back to my room after that innings, I asked myself, in front of the mirror, whether I was the same person. It was a great day. I also remember Harbhajan Singh calling up and congratulating me.
How did the team react after that innings?
The seniors told me that the higher you go, the more humble you should become. Also, I had the advantage of Sachin Tendulkar being in the same dressing room who exemplifies these values.
The Indian team fielded splendidly throughout the tournament…
Yes, we did. Running Bevan out was the turning point of the Australia match. He was well set and could have changed the course of the match. We had three energetic fielders in Badani, Sriram and me. Also, I think the overall standard of Indian fielding in that tournament rose to a great height.
Did the team chalk out any particular strategy for the final?
We needed to score at least 280 runs to be competitive. Sourav played a great innings but I think we should have scored more runs in the last ten overs. We really missed a golden opportunity at Nairobi.
Your memories of Chris Cairns’ innings in the final?
Fantastic innings, a great effort. We still talk about that innings. It was amazing to see him play that kind of an innings he played, and that too carrying an injury — knee. We missed a run out chance against him. Finally, he took the game away from us.
Who will win this time, and why?
Cricket is a very unpredictable game. At the moment, I can think about four teams having a great chance — India, Pakistan, Australia and the West Indies.