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Posted at: Jun 11, 2019, 8:10 AM; last updated: Jun 11, 2019, 8:10 AM (IST)

‘An even better person than cricketer’

Former coach, friends and classmate recall their association with Yuvraj Singh
‘An even better person than cricketer’
City connect (Clockwise) A young Yuvraj Singh at the Chandigarh skating rink; with a cancer-hit child; and during an IPL match as part of Punjab Kings XI squad. Tribune/PTI file photos

Kaveesha Kohli

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 10

As cricketer Yuvraj Singh today announced his retirement after an illustrious innings in international cricket, those in the city, where he was born and raised, spoke to The Tribune of his extraordinary journey.

Yuvraj’s former coach Harish Sharma says his single-minded pursuance of goal was his biggest quality. “Voh ziddi bahut tha. Jo soch liya, voh bus karna hi hai (He was stubborn. He would strive to achieve anything he had set his mind on).”

Sharma was one of Yuvraj’s coaches from 1991 -1998 when he played at the Sector 16 Stadium here. “His father would bring him to the stadium. We would ask him to bowl, but he would refuse. Even if we hit him with a bat, he wouldn’t budge. It was his obstinacy that paid off. He wanted to bat from morn till night,” Sharma recalls.

Nishant Arora, Yuvraj’s former manager and childhood friend, is all praise for cricketer’s “incredible resilience”, both at the personal and professional level. “It is Yuvraj’s warrior-like spirit that has led him to success,” says Sushil Kapoor, a manger of the Punjab Cricket Association during Yuvraj’s formative years.

Penchant for sixes

Arora recalls Yuvraj’s penchant for sixes. Arora and Yuvraj first met as teenagers at a cricket camp. “Once at Bishan Singh Bedi cricket camp in Chail, Yuvraj hit so hard that the ball would be invariably lost in the hills. A new rule was made that if a ball was lost, the player would be considered out,”he says. “It was almost impossible to dismiss him,” he adds fondly.

Another friend Gulzar Inder Chahal remembers the time when he and Yuvraj studied at YPS Patiala as teenagers.

“During an under-16 match, Yuvi kept hitting sixes. We were taken aback as uptil then we had considered him lazy,” he says. Chahal credits the cricketer’s father Yograj Singh for this transformation.

Father hard taskmaster

Those who know Yuvraj closely remember his father as a thorough disciplinarian who was “very hard on Yuvraj” but was also responsible for his success.

“A young Yuvraj had come home after winning a skating championship. Yograj got angry and broke his prize,” says a source who has closely known the family for 40 years. “Yograj told Yuvraj skating was for girls,” he says.

Yograj was so hard on him that Yuvraj would often cry, and others would have to intervene to defuse the situation, he recalls. “Yograj wanted him to emulate his own hard regimen,” says the source.

According to him, Yograj once destroyed wife Shabnam’s backyard rose garden and used the place to train Yuvraj.

Gulzar Inder Chahal, too, credits Yograj for his son’s success. “He made him go through an extremely hard regimen to practise in all kind of weather,” he recalls.

Ex-coach Kapoor says Yuvraj single-handedly won the 2011 World Cup, despite battling several odds. Yuvraj was struggling with form before the tournament and was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer soon after.”

Inspiration for cancer-hit

Arora stayed with Yuvraj, along with his mother, when he was under treatment for cancer in the US. “He is made of steel,” says Arora.

Yuvraj has changed the narrative around cancer. The disease can not only be survived but one can continue to be successful after it, he adds. “He has inspired the country to let go of a brutal stigma,” says Arora.

Heart of gold, say friends

The cricketer’s friends speak of his “heart of gold”. “I always have maintained that he is an even better person than a cricketer,” says Arora.

According to Kapoor, Yuvraj’s “care-free” attitude when batting is something to emulate. “He would always guide and support youngsters whenever he got the chance,” says Kapoor.

According to Chahal, Yuvraj has “extraordinary” capabilities of heart and mind that only add to his cricketing prowess.

see also page 6

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