Bangalore: It's the second week of Yuvraj Singh's rehabilitation programme at the National Cricket Academy, and is likely to involve a spot of batting in the nets, which is what has brought him to Bangalore. The net bowlers are ready, but Yuvraj isn't. Not yet. Right now, practice and training schedules are being worked out, diet plans designed and waiting media contingents being dealt with.
Around 50 mediapersons arrived at the NCA on Monday afternoon once news went out that Yuvraj would be around. Also at the NCA were Virender Sehwag, Ishant Sharma, Irfan Pathan, RP Singh and Varun Aaron, but there was no way they would serve as distractions. What if, in trying to get a moment with Sehwag, Yuvraj slipped away? So while, ordinarily, Sehwag's appearance would have sent the journalists into a tizzy, only a couple of TV cameras bothered to turn their attention to him today. The others were ignored completely.
Sandeep Patil, NCA's Director of Operations, tried to remind everyone - twice - that it was June 25, the anniversary of India's World Cup triumph in 1983. A cheeky young reporter replied, "Yeah, but that was a long time back. We are here to meet Yuvi, he won the World Cup for us last year." If that put Patil off, he didn't show it.
The wait seemed interminable, but Yuvraj finally did show up. The stubble is back. Under the blue India cap, a bit of fuzz also seems to have appeared. Most importantly, the cheerful demeanour was on view as Yuvraj, recovering from a rare cancer, walked up to the media contingent and quipped, "So many of you? It's not like I am playing a match tomorrow, you know."
Indeed, the target is to make a comeback at the ICC World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka this September. That's a long way away as such, but not for someone who has been out of cricket since November last year. "First, I need to get into shape," Yuvraj said. "Let me start my practice sessions, play a couple of domestic matches, maybe a couple of tournaments in August. Let's see if I am fit for the World Cup."
If fit and in form, Yuvraj's presence at the World T20 will be a huge boost to India's chances. After all, he was the star in both the World T20 win in 2007 and, more recently, the win in the One-Day International World Cup in 2011. "But I am not strong enough physically yet," Yuvraj told Wisden India. "The first aim is to regain strength and then work on my fitness. I have only started doing cardio exercises. It will take close to two months to get the strength back in my body. I am still a little shaky."
The body has obviously gone through a lot in recent times, and that's showing. The smile might be back, but to lose the excess weight and get the muscles working will take time. The question of playing cricket comes well after that.
For the moment, there are indoor training sessions at the NCA with batting in the nets lined up for later in the week. "I'm going to be here at the NCA for a while," Yuvraj said. "And I am not going to hurry anything. But when I do come back, I promise I will be 100% fit and ready."