We live in a world of cricket overdose, where the technique, fitness, and mentality of the players is constantly watched and debated by the fans. While most of the aspects are under scrutiny, the dressing room is one place that is still veiled from the world.
Amidst all the rumours and legends of the cricketing folklore, sometimes players themselves share stories of friendship, bonding, and anecdotes to fun times that they spent together in the dressing room.
One such was shared by Yuvraj Singh, many moons ago. In the 2000's, Singh over a period of time has earned a reputation of being a fantastic match-winner, as well as the biggest prankster in the dressing room.
A few years ago, in a chat show hosted by Bollywood actress and Kings XI Punjab owner Preity Zinta, Yuvraj opened up about one such prank in the Indian dressing room that was played on the then skipper Sourav Ganguly.
The night before Yuvraj was set to make his ODI debut against Kenya in the ICC 2000 knockout tournament, Sourav Ganguly came up to him and asked. "Open karega na?" (Will you open?)
Yuvraj replied he would, but that was more out of bravado, so much so that he had to take sleeping pills the night before the match.
The next morning, at breakfast, Sourav told Yuvraj it was just a joke.
For Ganguly, the matter ended there, but Yuvraj had other ideas. Years later, partners in crime with Harbhajan Singh and the rest of the team, he returned the favour to arguably India's most beloved captain.
It was business as usual in Kochi in 2005. With his routine swagger, Ganguly walked into the team meeting before the opener against traditional rivals Pakistan. The players were already present when he got there. Ganguly failed to note the pre-planned buzz that quickly turned into pin-drop silence upon his entrance. Everything seemed normal, just like he thought the meeting would be, little did he know that he would get the shock of his life moments later.
As was the norm, strategies and tactics were discussed, but Dada was aghast when the players showed him a newspaper (fabricated overnight) where he had made some comments against his team’s players. Still unable to fathom what on earth was going on, he looked on as Yuvraj Singh, Harbhajan Singh and Virender Sehwag gave a sheet of paper to the team manager, Wing Commander M Baladitya, and one to Sourav himself.
“We arranged a printout of an imaginary interview of Sourav, where he’d been critical of his players. When that was shown to him, he pleaded he had not given any such interview," recalled Yuvraj Singh.
Sourav went from player to player, claiming innocence. To make matters worse, the sheet of paper given to the team manager was read out.
Dada's face lost colour when the team, as one, had spelled out their reservations against him and his style of captaincy. "I almost had tears in my eyes," recalled the former skipper.
"These were the same players I had always fought for. I didn't know why they were suddenly saying all these things," he added.
He looked pleadingly for some support, but it was just not there. He was all alone in this battle.
Sourav, in desperation, offered to resign from captaincy and promised he had never made such statements, after seeing Harbhajan Singh and Ashish Nehra storm out of the dressing room.
On the verge of breaking point, Sourav just could not take it anymore. Rahul Dravid could not bear to see his captain like this and told him it was an April fool's prank.
“Dada picked up a bat and chased all of us out of the dressing room,” said Yuvraj, unable to control his laughter.
"I was more relieved than embarrassed," Ganguly said, years later. Incidentally, he was given another sheet of paper signed by all. He could barely find the courage to read, but when he did, it warmed his heart. It simply read, "Dada, we all love you."
The captain promptly hugged each one of his teammates, but gave them a stern warning, never to do the same again.
Such unity is the crux of any sporting team in the world, and Dada, a captain loved thoroughly by the players of his team, would remember this not as a day he was fooled, but as a day he came to know how much his teammates loved him.Published 13 Aug 2014, 09:39 IST