New Delhi, Feb 5 (IANS) If India skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni sees playing under pressure in the World Cup at home as an added responsibility, Virender Sehwag thinks it’s an advantage and now Yuvraj Singh finds it a “big challenge”.
Yuvraj’s mantra to ease pressure: treat the World Cup as any other bilateral series. Having played in the final in 2003 and the disastrous 2007 World Cups, the dashing middle-order batsman knows what pressure is all about. He wants the team to approach the “World Cup as any normal ODI series” and “shrug off the pressure of expectations.”
The 29-year-old left-handed batsman knows that playing in front of home crowd would be a challenge, but he is confident of the team making the semi-finals, like they did on the last two occasions in 1987 and 1996 when the sub-continent hosted the mega event.
“The pressure will be huge and we should face it as a big challenge. We should enjoy the home support,” Yuvraj told IANS in an interview.
Yuvraj says the best way to battle pressure is to stop thinking that we are playing in a World Cup.
“If we start thinking too much about the World Cup then we end up putting too much pressure on ourselves. We have to take it as any ODI series and plan and execute properly for best results. We have to be in control of the game for greater parts of it,” he said.
Yuvraj agrees the expectations of fans will be huge, but the players can’t get distracted.
“We have to try to stay away from distractions and concentrate on the game. We need to take game by game and if we are able to carry out our plans I am sure we will reach the semi-finals. It is all about keeping up the momentum,” he said.
Yuvraj knows that the opening game against Bangladesh is crucial. Four years ago in the West Indies, India suffered a shocking five-wicket loss against the neighbours, leading to a first-round exit.
“We have to take one match at a time and the first match against Bangladesh will be important. Four years ago we lost to them and made an early exit. Playing Bangladesh in their own backyard is tough and I am just thinking about the first match,” he said.
Yuvraj is well aware of his role; after all he has been a match winner.
“Earlier, I batted at No.6 and my role was to finish the game, scoring runs quickly in the last 15 overs. Now I bat at No 4, sometimes at No.5, and have to bowl 7 to 10 overs. So now my work load has increased as I am bowling a lot in most of the matches. Now I am doing decently well with the ball and my role is different now. I am bowling more because we don’t have a left-arm spinner in the team,” he said.
With just two weeks left for the Bangladesh game, Yuvraj is a bit worried about his form. In the last two ODI series against New Zealand and South Africa, he has scored 211 runs in nine matches at an average of 23.44 with the highest being a crucial 53 against the Proteas in Johannesburg where India won by one run.
“Last year I have been injured a lot. It is always tough to come back from an injury, perform and get injured again. Form hasn’t been great, but it hasn’t been too bad either. I have scored a few 40s and 50s but couldn’t convert them into big hundreds. I have to concentrate on converting 50s into big scores. But I have been hitting the ball well,” he said.
The year 2010 indeed was tough for Yuvraj. Injuries apart, he lost his place in the Test squad and was dropped a rung in the board’s central contracts.
“It was tough as everything happened at a time when I was trying to build my Test career. It taught me lot, made me stronger and gave me the will to fight back. A lot was said about me, but I focussed on my game and fitness unruffled. I have come out of it strong and am confident of getting back to where I belong,” he said.