Moments after his doctor told him that he was suffering from the ‘dreaded C’, Yuvraj Singh rang up his father. “Papa, main bimaar hoon (Papa, I’m ill),” he broke the depressing news. How do you think the father reacted? “Laanat hai tujh par! Tu mar nahi sakta (Shame on you! You can’t die now.),” Yograj Singh told him. That’s Yograj for you — eerily blunt.
Given that he used to treat Yuvraj to a barrage of cork balls in the peak of winter in Chandigarh, the reaction didn’t surprise those who knew him. “Papa, lag raha hai (Papa, it’s hurting),” Yuvraj would say. Lag raha hai? Aur bhi lagega (Is it hurting? It’ll hurt even more),” the father would respond. “Today, I stand here as the father of one of India’s most-loved cricketers,” an emotionally-charged Yograj said at the launch of Yuvi, authored by seasoned journalist Makarand Waingankar and published by Harper-Collins India. Yuvraj was conspicuous by his absence, but the gathering was overawed after listening to Kapil Dev, Dilip Vengsarkar, Balvinder Singh Sandhu, Milind Rege and, of course, long-time pals Yograj and Waingankar.
Yuvraj was barely 15 when he joined Vengsarkar’s academy at Oval Maidan. Like his father did years ago, Yuvi stayed at the Waingankar household in Andheri. “He was late by two hours when he first came to the academy,” Vengsarkar recalled. “He told me, ‘uncle I want to go back. I don’t want to stay here. I cannot handle the train journey from Andheri. I missed three trains...,” the 116-Test veteran added in typical style.
“So I called Yograj and he told Yuvi that Mumbai would make him khadoos. The same evening, I told players like Ramesh Powar, who also used to stay in Andheri, to take care of Yuvraj.”
Vengsarkar then overheard their conversation. “Arre Yuvi, kit bag se dhakka marneka (Use your kit bag and push your way into the train),” Powar said. But Yuvi didn’t quite understand what Powar meant by “dhakka marneka”! After giving him a lesson in Bambaiyya lingo, Powar told Yuvi to find a “khopcha”! Yuvi was flummoxed. “Arre side mein khada hone ka (just find place on the side),” Powar explained. The audience was having a ball as Vengsarkar revealed what happened next. Yuvi came on time the next day and told Vengsarkar he’d figured out a way to travel on the packed trains. “The moment I pushed myself into the train, two people fell off from the other door!” he told a stunned Vengsarkar, who enquired if the co-passengers had fallen onto the tracks! “No, on the platform,” Yuvi replied.
Jokes apart, both Vengsarkar and Kapil Dev, who called Yuvraj a ‘superman’, said the comeback man needs to establish himself in Test cricket. “He needs to focus better,” Kapil said. Vengsarkar, who had picked him for the home series against Pakistan in 2007-08, said, “Over the years he didn’t play many Test matches, which, I feel very bad about.” The guy has defeated cancer. He will overcome this glitch too.