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Handling pressure, the natural way

His face appears to register no emotion whatsoever. When he speaks, it seems like he's merely mouthing the words without giving any real thought to what he's saying.

india Updated: Mar 13, 2003 00:01 IST

His face appears to register no emotion whatsoever. When he speaks, it seems like he's merely mouthing the words without giving any real thought to what he's saying. Even if he's looking straight at you, there's always that uneasy feeling that he's not quite there. And there's something somewhat mechanical about him.

But this 22-year-old undergoes a complete personality change when he strides onto the field. He is suddenly, very expressive, aggressive. Hand him a bat, and you've got yourself a flamboyant, emotional, innovative player hammering the bowlers to all parts of the ground.

It is hard to believe it is the same man.

Yuvraj Singh is already mentally so mature and adept at handling any sort of pressure, that it's probably only a matter of time before he's dubbed the 'Iceman' of the cricketing world. Of the 12 times he's crossed the 50 mark in his short career, India has won on 11 occasions and most of these innings have come when defeat is a short step away.

Yet, when you ask him how he manages to cope so easily with pressure, you get a blank stare. It's a while before his lips move and he says, in his matter-of-fact tone: "I just go in there and bat. I love to hit out and sometimes, things work out, sometimes, they don't."

In this Cup though, the 'go in there and hit out' technique seems to have worked just fine, much to the delight of the Indian team. Be it England, Pakistan or Kenya, Yuvraj has come in to bat at crucial junctures, been absolutely unfazed by the tension and played some breathtaking shots to see India home.

Some questions need asking. Does he train very hard? What kind of preparation does he need before a match? Where does he get his strength? His answers are short. They don't tell you much.

He comes from that clinically clean and geometrically structured city of Chandigarh. Everything is so picture-perfect there that it seems an unlikely place for genius to bloom. Yet Kapil Dev's talent was nurtured there. Yuvraj might not be a genius in the making, but he has loads of talent. His batting and strokes have that singular quality, which mark him as something very special.

He considers himself lucky that he was born to a father who might have played just a single one-day international but had also had one burning ambition --- to make his son a "great player''. Not many would remember that Yograj Singh was an extremely talented all-rounder, someone who played his cricket with Kapil Dev and was even rated a better player than Kapil at one time.

The temperamental Yog forced his son to play cricket "eight hours daily". "I owe everything to him," says the son. Talk about his past and his eyes become bright. This is the first time that you feel that perhaps he's human after all.

Anyone who's met his father would tell you how he would never tire of saying, "My son is a mix of Gary Sobers and Vivian Richards." Yog made these statements when his son had barely entered his teens. Most thought it was a crazy thing to say, but in retrospect, you have to admit that despite the exaggeration, there was also some truth in his paternal pride.

Unlike his father, who was as explosive a bat as his son, but only when playing in the nets or on a lesser stage, Yuvraj has managed to translate his immense talent onto the big stage.

There's a silly question lurking, one that is asked anyway. How has he managed to achieve what his father failed to do? Finally, you get a huge smile! The answer, perhaps, lies more in that smile than in the words, "I think it is all natural. I play the way I play. I don't think too much about it."

Yuvraj is refreshingly candid when he says that earlier, he tended to get too carried away and "did not care" about his defence. "But after I was dropped from the Indian team, I worked on my game and now try to restrain myself. It has helped."

It sure has. There is no doubt that Yuvraj is someone very special. He combines in himself the natural grace of a lefthander and the brutal force of a bottom-handed right-hand batsman. And his persona is such that he seems to revel under intense pressure. His can be a success story whose script has already been written.

First Published: Mar 13, 2003 00:01 IST