“When I started playing, I used to watch Viru bhaiya’s batting, and our senior Pradeep Sangwan also used to practise with us. So we have seen them from close quarters and started believing that we too can play. So as a cricketer, I have always followed Virender Sehwag,” said the Najafgarh all-rounder Yadav in a conversation with Timesofindia.com.
The 2020 edition of the IPL has been moved to the UAE in the wake of Covid-19, which made it impossible for India to host the tournament. The league will begin on September 19, after a gap of almost six months since its original start date of March 29, and conclude on November 10. The matches will be played at three venues in the Emirates — Abu Dhabi, UAE and Dubai.
Yadav has been practising along with three of his DC teammates — Rishabh Pant, Mohit Sharma and Ishant Sharma — at a farm house in Delhi. The nerves haven’t got to him ahead of hitting the big stage and he wants to keep himself free from the pressures of setting personal targets.
“I just want to experience the atmosphere at the next level of cricket. Making goals or setting standards to achieve this or that, it brings pressure. Just enjoy the game and see how much you can improve,” said Yadav, who made his first-class debut for Delhi in 2017 and has so far played 12 matches, with 570 runs and nine wickets to his name.
Talking about atmosphere, the IPL is likely to be played in front of empty stands in the UAE or limited crowds during the latter stages of the tournament. Yadav adds an interesting perspective to that from the point of view of uncapped players like him making their IPL debuts.
“It’s a good thing for me, like the spectator pressure won’t be there. I have never played in front of a huge crowd, so playing in front of empty stands will be like when I play for Delhi or my club. It’s kind of an advantage,” Yadav told TimesofIndia.com.
Sky is the limit when it comes to how far Lalit Yadav can tonk the cricket ball 🙌Dilliwalon, apne Dilli boy ka sw… https://t.co/yNGs6EGvkq
— Delhi Capitals (Tweeting from 🏠) (@DelhiCapitals) 1577079000000
Yadav started his career as a wicket-keeper batsman for the Sporting Club in Najafgarh, before being roped in by Air India on a scholarship. Three months ago, he joined the Income Tax Department.
“I started bowling off-spin as an experiment. I used to play as a wicket-keeper batsman. But in the club team, there were 2-3 wicket-keepers (ahead of me) and I wasn’t getting a chance to play. So I started bowling off-spin, gained confidence in it. Now I keep learning new variations,” said Yadav, who has picked up 20 wickets in 30 T20 matches for Delhi and scored 408 runs at a strike rate of 136.91.
The 23-year-old all-rounder credits former India opener and World Cup-winner Gautam Gambhir for helping him find his feet in first-class cricket, though he missed the chance to play under his captaincy.
“I haven’t played under him (Gambhir) but played alongside him. He supported me a lot in my first season. There were a lot of rumours about how I got into the Ranji (Trophy) team and all, but he always supported me,” said Yadav. “I have been talking to him about how I should think, how I should play, how I should practice. He is always there.”
“When I took a five-for in a Vijay Hazare (Trophy) match, people’s observations about me changed. They thought ‘he can bowl good off-spin too’,” said the batting all-rounder, who has featured in 17 List-A games so far, with 281 runs and 18 wickets in his kitty.
(Lalit Yadav congratulating Ishant Sharma during a match)
Yadav said any rookie coming into professional cricket needs the seniors to make him feel comfortable, so that he can express himself and excel in his game.
While he is yet to have a detailed chat with his DC skipper Shreyas Iyer, Yadav continued to praise Gambhir for giving him the support he needed to grow.
“He (Gambhir) always said, ‘if you have a plan, I will always support you’…That’s the kind of confidence we need from the seniors, because when a new player comes into the team, there are goosebumps, that it’s such a big team. Just to share the dressing room (with top players) is a big thing. If that player has to become a match-winner, he will need this kind of support,” Yadav further told TimesofIndia.com.
With Ben Stokes bamboozling opposition teams with his all-round skills since the ICC World Cup last year, it’s difficult for a young all-rounder to look beyond the England superstar, and Yadav is no different.
“As an all-rounder, I haven’t really thought of idolising anybody as such, but if I would want an all-rounder’s tag, then Ben Stokes is the best. He can win you a game with both bat and ball,” Yadav said to conclude the conversation.