Mumbai: Dave Callaghan, the former South Africa all-rounder, who overcame testicular cancer to play international cricket in the 1990s and early 2000, has some advice for cancer-stricken Yuvraj Singh: Set yourself a goal.
While Port Elizabeth-based Callaghan conceded that survival would be uppermost on India's 2011 World Cup star's mind, the 47-year-old South African said that Yuvraj must soon set a time frame for his return to cricket.
"Yuvraj will do well to tell himself, 'by the end of my treatment, I would like to play... for example... next year's IPL (Indian Premier League).' A target to work towards is important," said Callaghan. "I told myself (in 1991) that at the end of my treatment which was four to six months, I would like to play one first-class match again."
Indeed, Callaghan made it back on the South African domestic circuit for Eastern Province 'B' field after four sessions of chemotherapy. Callaghan's testicular cancer was detected by accident when he visited a doctor to get an abdomen injury checked while playing club cricket in England. By December 1992, he made his international debut in the one-day series against Mohammed Azharuddin's tourists.
He is in a good position to know what Yuvraj is going through. But the need to be extremely tough cannot be lost on the mercurial left-hander, who last played for India in November's Test series against the West Indies.
Another important ingredient in the road to recovery, according to Callaghan is to, "find a support group of people who have had cancer and compare notes with them. I know Yuvraj is a superstar in India, but an illness like this makes you understand that you are just like anyone else in the world." The South African had no doubts over Yuvraj getting the maximum support from his fans, but the support which would matter the most will come from his family and teammates.
Great news though...
"Cancer is all about early detection and it is great news that the doctor says it's the first stage," said Callaghan, who didn't shy away from talking about the challenging times Yuvraj might face: "I think he might have a small problem with his own doubts like how bad is the malignancy, how far has the cancer reached, is this what my body goes through, am I going to feel normal or sick after a session? That's why it is important to have a good support group of people who have been through it all."
In an earlier interview to this writer at Port Elizabeth in 2006, Callaghan spoke at length about his illness:
lMy illness made me think about life more. I looked back on my days when I used to bang my bat and throw tantrums in the dressing room when I used to get out. I regretted that and decided to take whatever comes my way in my stride simply because I was fortunate to be living.
lI had four sessions of chemotherapy. They were awful. lI remember collapsing in the passage on the way to the toilet and my wife had to help me to toilet and back on the bed. lI lost all my hair through chemotherapy sessions. Everyone was very concerned about my health. People used to ask me how I was and then I said I am fine. I could see that they were not convinced. But as a cancer patient, you are always positive and you always believe that you will live.
Callaghan is also known for his unbeaten 169 as opener in a ODI against NZ in 1994. When Hansie Cronje was caught in the match-fixing controversy, it was Callaghan who took his place in the team which played Australia in April 2000. Although fully cured, he doesn't take any chances with his health even when it comes to slight pain in his back.