New Delhi: Services have more often than not languished at the bottom of the Plate division but with the new Ranji Trophy format in order, the team has done tremendously well this season. With an outright win and five draws so far, Services are leading Group C and are in with a shot of making to the knockout stages. With performances coming from every player at crucial times, a total team effort under the new captain Soumik Chatarjee can be seen but there has been one centrifugal figure around which the success has revolved. Yashpal Singh – or YP as he is commonly referred to - has seen the lowest point of the team and the highest he says would be when the team qualifies for the higher group. Yashpal has carried Services on his shoulders for long and even this season, along with a bunch youngsters, he might as well carry the team one step higher. Excerpts from his interview with Cricketnext:
You were the captain for five years but this season you do not have that responsibility. How did captaincy affect you as a player?
I am batting a bit freely this year as opposed to previous seasons. Earlier, with the captaincy I was finding it a bit difficult to concentrate on my batting as I had a lot on my mind such as bowling changes, field settings. A captain needs to keep a lot of things in mind and this year without the responsibility of leading the side I am batting freely.
The middle-order batsman has carried Services on his shoulders for long.
How would you access your team’s performance under your captaincy as well as your personal form?
The team did well as far as I am concerned. We were unlucky to miss the knockout stages in 2010-11 by a single point, but overall it was an enjoyable experience for me. Personally, being a captain or not, my aim is always to do well for the team and my performances I think were decent enough.
This is your 12th Ranji season and with a batting average of 52, to call you a run-machine won’t be wrong. What keeps you going?
It is all about dedication and motivation. Motivating factors behind my performance are my family and my coach Tarak Sinha. My personal aim is to make as many runs as possible and play for the team in the most effective manner possible.
You debuted for Services in the 2001-02 season, you are in the Navy and even after 11 years you are going strong. How did this love affair start?
It all started at this very ground [Palam] itself. I remember playing a friendly match against Services for my club, Sonnet Cricket Club. Ajay Sharma was also there with me batting. I scored good runs in that match and that time the coach of the Navy team RS Jhala sir noticed me and picked me for the Services team. Jhala sir supported me a lot and I performed well for his team, Navy, and the Services. Right from the start we had a lot of understanding. He used to tell me a lot about my cricket and even my life and some of the things stand true even now for me.
You had a sensational debut season with twin fifties in your first match and a record breaking double in your second. What are your thoughts when you look back at it?
I do have fond memories of those matches. My debut was against Delhi and the second was against Punjab. The most memorable thing for me in those matches was that I did well against two quality teams. At that time, both teams had good players with Gautam Gambhir, Mithun Manhas, Aakash Chopra, Amit Bhandari, Rahul Sanghvi and Sarandeep Singh in Delhi and even Punjab had their full strength with the likes of Vikram Rathour, Yuvraj Singh, Dinesh Mongia and Ritinder Singh Sodhi. So to do well and score fifties (69 and 83*) against Delhi and a double (202*) against Punjab, looking back, it is something that I am proud of even now.
With such prolific run-scoring in your early days, especially in the 2004-05 season, you were being noticed and your name was there and there about for India selection. Were you expectant of a national call up?
Selection matters were not in my hand; the one thing that was was to play well and score whenever I took the bat in my hand. My focus was and still is to perform well always and not think much about other matters. Again, to be selected or not to be selected is not in my hands, so to think if I will get selected or not was not in my mind.
But again, did you ever feel that you missed out owing to lack of opportunity?
Yes, I did. And playing in the Plate division recognition is hard to get by. I did feel it many a times but again that is not my job and I cannot do anything about. My job is to play and perform and hope for the best. Not playing in the Elite group affects you a lot, I played a lot in Plate division and my performances are not really counted, also the team performances. But if the team manages to play in higher groups regularly I think all my past performances will ultimately count and my main aim is to lift the team up.
How did you start playing cricket and who is your role model?
My father, Amarjeet Singh, motivated me to play cricket at the club level. I joined the Sonnet Cricket Club where I got in touch with my coach Tarak Sinha. He taught me everything about cricket and life and lot of other things which I cherish even now. I played Under-19 and Under-16 for Delhi and then Services happened. Steve Waugh was one cricketer I always liked to watch, not just his batting but more so his attitude towards the game. He was not a technically sound cricketer but his passion for the game inspired me a lot. He was an attacking captain and I liked him a lot.
Did you mould your batting and your overall approach towards the game on Steve Waugh?
You could say that because Steve played according to the situation and even I believe that I need to perform as per my team requirements. Steve would be a grafter in one innings and in the next he would be aggressive and even I always sought to be a compact player. I think about my team first like him.
Did you ever feel a bit frustrated in your cricket career?
Lot of times, to be honest. There have been seasons were I was doing well but the team was not able gel together or put up a good performance. Services team was banned one season as well due to miscommunication and that was a very disappointing time. Also a couple of years’ back when we missed the knockout stages by just one point was another one of those really frustrating times in my career.
What is your take on the current crop of Services players?
Players like Rajat Paliwal, Anshul Gupta are very talented and have a very good future. They have the potential to play higher. Till the time we do not play in higher groups, chances of getting noticed will be very few and again the recognition factor would not be there. In order to fulfill their abilities these youngsters need to play higher and the team needs to qualify for Group A or B. Only then their performances will be valued.
How was your IPL experience?
It was great. To be part of Kolkata Knight Riders squad was a great experience. I had four to five captains there with the likes of Chris Gayle, Ricky Ponting and Sourav Ganguly and for me to play under them was a something special. for me it was like playing for the country, representing India. I got to learn a lot both on-field and off-field especially about my batting. Even with Kochi Tuskers with VVS Laxman and Mahela Jayawardene I had a good chat regarding my batting and all the other aspects of the game as well.
Do you think the 11 years that you played till now have been worthwhile?
Well, not really. Achievement wise I feel I can to much more and my ultimate dream to wear an Indian cap has not been fulfilled yet and that is something I am working hard for. And I will try work hard for that. Also, I want to see my team, Services, in a higher group. I am not satisfied, though we played one season but I want to see the team playing in higher groups for two or three seasons.