Yuvraj Singh called time on an illustrious playing career on Monday, saying the voice inside him had finally told him the time was right to leave. In an interaction with reporters after his announcement, he dwelled at length on the captains who made the most impact on him, how he would always prefer having a World Cup to scoring 10,000 runs, his regret at not having the same impact in Test cricket that he had in ODIs, and how he spurned the offer of a farewell match. Excerpts:
On making peace with his father, the former India fast bowler Yograj Singh, with whom he has had a fraught relationship
I think I actually made peace a couple of days ago when I was talking to my father. So I spoke to him and all the demons inside as a younger kid came out. That conversation happened and he said his side of the story. It was a very peaceful moment for me to have that closure and have that chat with him, because I’ve never had that chat with him in the last 20 years. He’s always been like a dragon to me… I think me and my father both have a very different relationship now. We both have grown up. Well I have grown up, I don’t know about him! All his life he has taken off on me in the media, now it’s my time.
But yes, I’ve had closure with him. He never appreciated me playing any other sport. He only appreciated if I played cricket. So I said, “So be it.” And luckily for me, later on in my career I started enjoying it and made something good out of it.
I think it was a very beautiful moment talking to my father and talking to my mom about my journey and I was looking for closure.
On why he wasn’t able to do as well in Test cricket:
Yes, definitely, that will always be a regret. I think I played at a time when it was very difficult to get a spot. Played with [VVS] Laxman, [Sourav] Ganguly who was captain, Sachin [Tendulkar], Rahul [Dravid], Viru [Virender Sehwag] started opening… it was very hard to find space in the middle order. And that time we used to get one or two Test matches [to prove ourselves] compared to guys today who get 10 to 15 Test matches to play all the time.
So I never really got that spot. Every time I failed, I would lose my spot because it was just me, or Sourav or Laxman… Over seven years I think I sat out of 40 Test matches. And then when Sourav retired, that one year I was actually playing Test cricket. I finally got my spot, but then I got diagnosed with cancer, so… I don’t know what to say. It’s been unfortunate. If you look at the whole journey it’s been great, but unfortunate not to play… another 40 Test matches would have been awesome.
I was batting at No. 6, I averaged about 34-35, which is not great. I would have loved to average 40. But for me, at the end of the day, it’s about winning games, and every time I scored runs I’m sure it helped win the game for India. It’s a regret, definitely, but I’ve given my all.
On whether he regrets not scoring 10,000 ODI runs:
No… Scoring 8000, 9000, whatever, definitely you can look at the books and say, “Oh he scored 10,000 runs.” But winning the World Cup… I’d rather have winning the World Cup than scoring 10,000 runs. I never thought about 10,000 runs, I always thought about winning the World Cup. 10,000 would be very special, but I think winning the World Cup is far more special.
On his biggest high and his defining moment on the field:
I think the biggest moment in my career would definitely be winning the World Cup in 2011 and being Man of the Series. And we won it in India as well, and after 28 years. There cannot be a bigger high.
Defining moment in my career, I think it would be when I batted for the first time in my career and scored 84 against Australia. First game, and you score 84 against the best team in the world… It was quite a dream. Because of that, I came and failed in a lot of games. But because I had started so well I always got an opportunity.
On his family’s reactions when he told them:
I’d been talking to my wife and mother since two years, that I want to retire and go on with my life. But mentally I was not happy. Because after playing international cricket for so many years, going back and playing domestic cricket was a bit of a struggle.
I spoke to my father recently and when I had told him I want to speak to him he was expecting that I would tell him I’m going to retire. He was also saying that, “It’s been enough. Almost 19 years and about 25 years of playing cricket.” I think he was very happy I was retiring, and he hugged me. He was very satisfied with the journey because he lived his dreams through me. He was very happy with my career and told me that when Kapil Dev had lifted the World Cup [in 1983], he had the regret that he wasn’t in that team, but he felt happy when I lifted the World Cup. He was very content with what I had achieved.
On whether he would have wanted a farewell match:
I didn’t tell anyone in BCCI that I want to play a last match. If I was good enough and had potential, I would have gone to the ground. I don’t like to play cricket in that fashion, that “I want a [farewell] match.” I had been told that if I can’t pass the yo-yo test, I can play a retirement match. I said then that I don’t want a retirement match. If I don’t pass the yo-yo test, I’ll go home quietly.
On whether the yo-yo test is needed in a bat-ball game:
See, I’m sure in life I will have a lot of time now to discuss these things. I will have a lot to say. I’m not saying it right now because India is playing the World Cup, and I don’t want any controversies around the players. Because I want the players to be in the best phase possible to win the last four. I’m sure my time will come to speak. I don’t want to be in that space where I retired during the World Cup time and whatever… I just retired because I want to move on with my life, and I’m sure my time will come to talk about these things.
On which current player reminds him of himself:
Not exactly myself, I think he has the potential to be better. Rishabh Pant, he’s already scored two Test hundreds away, in Australia and England. I think that boy has great potential to be a very attacking, match-winning left-hander. I’m looking forward to seeing him in the next few years.
On mentorship or coaching in the future:
Not now, I’ve just retired! I’ll enjoy myself for a year or two. After that I’ll think about it. Right now I’m going to take some time off. I definitely want to give something back to cricket, and hopefully do some work in the future with the younger generation.
On the captains who had the most impact on him:
Ganguly was very authoritative when it came to fighting for his players. He wanted certain players in the team, like myself, Ashish [Nehra], Bhajju [Harbhajan Singh], Zaheer Khan, [Virender] Sehwag. I think he built us guys together.
Dhoni was very composed under pressure. He had a very good mind behind the stumps for how the game was going.
On his thoughts before the first time he batted in international cricket:
The previous night, Sourav Ganguly told me I have to open. Brett Lee, Jason Gillespie and [Glenn] McGrath were the bowlers. I remember it was a night of a lot of anxiety. But I got up in the morning all ready to open and Sourav said, “No no, I was just joking, playing a prank on you.” I told him that “Hopefully I will be able to repay the prank some day!”
I think there’s less pressure when you’re actually going in to bat. There’s more pressure outside, I’ve always felt it. And the moment I was in the zone, it was just like me and the ball.
On how he took revenge on Ganguly:
Gave it back to Sourav? Nicely, after a couple of years, against Pakistan. Bhajji and me made a false newspaper cutting of him accusing his own players. And Sourav got all red on the field and he said, “I don’t want to captain this team anymore.” And then we said, “April fool, Dada.”
On the toughest bowlers he’s faced and his favourite overseas cricketers:
You’re asking me this now?! (laughter)
I think Muttiah Muralitharan would be the toughest I’ve faced. The other would be Glenn McGrath. The overseas cricketers I admire… Ricky Ponting is someone I really admire as a batsman. AB de Villiers, Chris Gayle… I think these guys were serious powerhouses when I played against them.
On playing under pressure:
Under the sword, under pressure, I always play my best cricket. I used to enjoy the challenge when we were three or four down. When Kaif and me won that Natwest final, a lot of belief came from that situation, that if I can do this now at such a young age, I can do more in the future.
I felt the pressure a lot when I came back after cancer. I was not that fit, I went to France for training. When I came back in the team, Duncan [Fletcher] was the coach. And I felt there was a lot of pressure just to perform at that time. Everything had changed. Because everybody thinks I’ve come back from cancer and I’m not the same player anymore. That added up a lot of pressure on me, but that’s how life is.