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Yuvraj ‘homeschools’ Punjab’s IPL quartet – cricket

At a time when players are trying to shake off the rust after a long pandemic-induced layoff, Shubman Gill, Abhishek Sharma, Prabhsimran Singh and Anmolpreet Singh are heading into the Indian Premier League in better shape than ever. All because Yuvraj Singh took them under his wings, fed them home-cooked food and made them sweat out at his personal gymnasium.

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He is retired but Yuvraj has been pretty busy this season, conducting two long camps at the behest of the Punjab Cricket Association, at Mohali’s PCA Stadium where these four cricketers fine-tuned their fitness and skills, with a special emphasis on mental strengthening.

A left-handed batsman and left-arm spinner, Sharma was part of the India team that won the 2018 U-19 World Cup in New Zealand under Prithvi Shaw’s captaincy. This IPL, he will be turning out for Sunrisers Hyderabad. “Yuvi paaji has been extraordinary as a mentor. Seeing how he conducts himself, I can easily say he is a superb human being too. He treated us like younger brothers and made us feel at home during the pandemic. Our parents were a bit worried by the surge in cases. But Yuvi paaji came to our rescue as we could stay at his place,” he said.

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“He not only worked on our skills and mental strength but also played with us during practice matches. He asked us to play according to different match situations. And when we could not deliver, he showed how to do it. I am going to be in touch with him from the UAE,” said Sharma, who along with Prabhsimran and Anmolpreet, were staying at Yuvraj’s home for almost two months. Only Gill commuted from his Mohali home.

Anmolpreet, 22, first impressed during the 2016 U-19 World Cup and was included by Mumbai Indians last season. He is yet to make his IPL debut though. His cousin Prabhsimran, a 20-year-old wicketkeeper-batsman, was picked up by Kings XI Punjab for a whopping Rs 4.80 crore at the IPL auctions last season. However, he could play just one game.

“I am looking forward to playing more games this season. And this time, I am raring to go out there and just express myself. I want to make Yuvi paaji proud,” he said, adding how Yuvraj worked on improving his technique. “I was lacking in the confidence department a bit after the season ended. He just told me to forget everything and play my natural aggressive game. He also worked on a lot of technical things.”

Maturing into a dependable batsman, Gill’s success could dictate Kolkata Knight Riders’ fortunes this IPL. His father Lakhwinder, who accompanied his son every day to practice, feels Yuvraj’s mentorship was just the thing the batsman needed.

“It was so good to see him as coach and mentor. Yuvraj created match-like situations like powerplay or death overs every T20 game and these four were charged up to deliver. The camps did wonders. The youngsters have gone to the UAE fully fit and prepared,” Gill said.

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