Three In One

Shubh-yatra.in

, India Now

Indian cricket stars Yuvraj Singh, Harbhajan Singh and Suresh Raina are proud Air Indians. Gautam Bhimani tells us why they are the three musketeers of Team India

Often, an acronym can end up meaning completely different from what it stands for. Take the three first letters of three Team India players – Suresh Raina, Harbhajan Singh and Yuvraj Singh. The acronym often used for them was SHY. I cannot imagine a farther stretch of one’s imagination.

When it comes to the shortest format of the game, nobody epitomises it better than Yuvraj Singh. Hit for 5 sixes in an over by Englishman Dimitri Mascarenhas in the summer of ’07, he gave them a fitting reply in the inaugural ICC World Twenty20 that same autumn. Of course, he added an extra six for good measure. Singh went on to lead the nation’s victory charge in the 50-over quadrennial showpiece in 2011.

However, he hit the most important six of his career after this – by smashing a rare form of germ cell cancer outside the ground. He returned rejuvenated and with a new perspective on life. That’s the thing with Yuvraj Singh – just when you are on the verge of counting him out, the fire within him burns brighter.

Harbhajan Singh, too, emerged on the international cricket scene at the turn of the millennium on the back of a successful Under- 19 World Cup campaign. The shy, young patka-sporting Sikh boy in the 2001Australia Test is today the confident, stylish, outspoken Bhajji we know. Apart from proving his merit on the cricket ground, he has emerged as a capable leader, both of Punjab in domestic cricket and of the Mumbai Indians, which he led to victory in the 2015 IPL

Suresh Raina, on the other hand, represents Indian cricket’s next generation. One of the earliest stars to break the long-standing north, south and west cricket lobbies, Raina, too, made his first “national” appearance in the Under-19 category in the 2004 Bangladesh edition of the World Cup. However, in just a year, this feisty kid had stepped up to make his debut in the senior India side aged 19 in a Colombo ODI. It was the first time Yuvraj, Harbhajan and Raina played in the same India XI together!

Raina was out off the very first ball by the legendary Sri Lankan player Muttiah Muralitharan, but the best in him was yet to be revealed. Today, captain of the IPL franchise Gujarat Lions and zipping around in a canary-yellow Porsche Boxster, kitted out in high-street luxury brands, he’s a far cry from the small-town Uttar Pradesh boy he started off as.

However, all three have one thing in common – apart, of course, from the Air India connect. It is their charisma. Whether on the field or off it, they are the perfect trio to pull off the Maharajah badge with elan.

‘I owe my cricket to Air India’

As a teenager, when I was struggling to establish myself as a national-level cricketer and my middle-class family from Uttar Pradesh was trying to fund my career, Air India came forward to support me. It offered me a monthly scholarship that made me financially independent. The Rs 10,000-grant that Air India gave me was worth Rs 10,000 crore!

After a couple of years came the job with Air India. My salary helped augment my army-man father’s income.The job gave me the opportunity to represent Air India across the country and play with the best Indian teams – share the dressing room with legends such as VVS Laxman, represent the same brand as stars like Javagal Srinath and Nikhil Chopra, get trained by the best coaches, maintain a certain level of fitness, and travel across the world to play matches. In 2007, when injuries forced me out and my earnings dipped, Air India again supported me. In those pre-IPL days, Air India took care of my medical expenses even in England and helped me bounce back.

During my stint with the Chennai Super Kings in IPL, I was offered a more lucrative job. But my father advised me against it, saying I couldn’t turn against the organisation that was instrumental in making me who I am! Though I am the youngest of four brothers and a sister, I have always supported my family. And Air India gave me the means to care for them financially as well.

I am proud to be an Air Indian! As told to Jayita Bandyopadhyay

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