Yograj Singh is also called Yog’s Raj! ANY cricket: A writer has expressed surprise over the selection of Yograj Singh, a fast-medium bowler, and a more-than-useful batsman, in the Indian team to tour Australia, New Zealand, and the Fiji Islands this winter (1980–81). During India’s 62-run loss to New Zealand at Wellington, Yograj Singh made his Test debut for his country.
But all those who have followed the progress chart of this six-foot-tall bowler The 22-year-old handsome tall-rounder from Chandigarh knows how hard he has worked to attain this position. He and the front-line Test star, Kapil Dev, hit the national scene ‘almost together. Both were Class X students of Chandigarh’s DAV Higher Secondary School (Sector 8) when they played their first inter-zone matches of the Cooch-Behar Trophy in 1974.
The two made a big impact with their batting and bowling, and each had something definite to show to the board officials, who were then seriously looking for a pair of genuine new ball bowlers, so Kapil Dev and Yograj fit the bill.
While Kapil Dev’s cricket continued on set traditional lines, Yograj Singh skirted with chance and got bogged down by bad luck. In one summer, he played for Punjab instead of Haryana, for which he had been turning out regularly. He got his transfer on the basis of his birth on the family farm in Ludhiana.
But Punjab did not turn out to be the heaven he had sought. He was disillusioned. By that time, the Indian team to tour Australia was selected in 1977–78 under Bishen Singh Bedi and Kapil Dev had established himself. Though one season earlier both Yograj and Kapil Dev were in the 14 named for the under-22 and Combined University to play against Tony Lewis’s England, Yograj got the “big break” first.
The selectors decided to play him in the match, and Yograj was fairly impressive. As a greenhorn, he was able to get a substantial lift from a docile wicket. Many had thought that he would be the first in the race for selection for the Indian team. But one season with Punjab had made him so disappointed that, in a fit of anger bordering on frustration, he decided he would have nothing to do with cricket.
Rest is history; Kapil Dev continued his progress. Yograj Singh had a long layoff from cricket, especially first-class cricket. Then in June 1979, a chance encounter with a Bombay cricket buff, Makrand Waigankar, who saw Yograj at the nets at the insistence of a Jullundur friend of his, completely changed Yograj’s attitude towards cricket.
Makrand virtually “resurrected” Yograj, who flew to Bombay, made friends, and eventually agreed to play for Mafatlal Group in the 1979–80 Times of India Shield and other tournaments in and outside Bombay. Yograj Singh was back at his best. He staged a comeback and returned to play for Haryana with a bang in the state’s opening match against Jammu and Kashmir at Bhiwani, the hometown of Mr. Ranvir Singh, the new Joint Secretary of the Board of Control for Cricket in India.
By this time, the national selectors were waiting for a chance to try Yograj Sing in one of the first-class matches against Pakistanis, who were heard last season. He turned out for the Board President’s XI and gave a good exhibition of fast medium bowling. But the rain ruined the match between the North Zone and Pakistan at Amritsar. He bowled with a lot of fire. He eventually emerged as one of the key players in Haryana’s maiden march to the semifinals of the Ranji Trophy championship.
The stage was made for Yograj’s induction into the Indian team. The recent Moin-ud-Dowla tournament and the Wills Trophy matches gave him ample opportunities to prove his class. Those who judge their cricket only on the strength of statistics will always argue that Yograj has not done enough to merit selection But cold statistics prove nothing Yograj Singh and his wife, Shabnam, make a nice couple. They have an 11-month-old baby boy. Yograj’s father is now 74 and in frail health. But he has always taken keen interest in his son’s progress.
He was visibly moved when Chandigarh newsmen broke to him the news of Yograj’s selection. Shabnam was “very thrilled” and couldn’t say much. The happiest of them all is Desh Prem Azad, Senior Cricket Coach of the National Institute of Sports (Patiala), who has been successfully running his coaching center at the Cricket Stadium in Chandigarh for 15 years. He has had Kapil Dev and Yograj Singh under his wing ever since they were schoolboys. Azad, in fact, has done what many senior coaches in the country have never been able to achieve.
Chandigarh today has the country’s duo, and Azad’s confident that Yograj Sing and Kapil Dev will share the Indian attack together and lend a sharper edge to the left-arm Medium Pacers of Karsan Ghavri. His son, Yuvraj Singh, played cricket for the Indian team from 2000 to 2019. Originally from Kanech, a village in the Ludhiana district of Punjab, Yograj hails from Doraha.