Umesh Yadav March 18, 2013

'Feels good to be the fastest bowler in India now'

Meet Umesh Yadav, aka Babloo: motorbike-loving, healthy-eating, former fruit-stealing speed demon

Tell us something we do not know about you.
Because they always see me smiling on TV, most people think I am an outgoing and chatty person, but actually I am very shy.

Your friends say you were naughty as a kid and that your parents always scolded you for bunking school.
As a kid I was always adamant about getting what I wanted. My parents would try to tell me that I could not always get what I wanted but I would cry and get it in the end.

I loved playing cricket, like most kids do, so I would not think twice before bunking classes. There were times when I escaped school after lunch to play matches. My teachers would complain and my parents would scold me and sometimes even spank me for my misbehaviour.

What's this about you being an expert at stealing fruit from trees?
We would move as a group and climb trees, jump fences and steal fruit - in the evenings, so that the neighbours would not know exactly who we were. Oranges, mangoes and tamarind were our favourites.

Have you always naturally been a strong athlete?
My dad, Tilak Yadav, moved to Nagpur from his native village in Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh. As a youngster, he used to wrestle. He always followed a good training regime and put us through the same cycle. He would never allow us to sleep for too long. We would run 2-3km at 6am. My dad always believed in getting fresh air. I would run barefoot on the sand to improve my stamina. That helped me in my athletics from school to university level. I mainly competed in 100m, 200m, 400m hurdles, and long jump.

What is the fastest you have run 100m in?
10.56 seconds.

We hear you once trained to become a police constable.
My dad wanted me to study so that I could survive in the city, doing some respectable work. Before I took up cricket seriously, I applied to become a constable in the Nagpur city police. But I was rejected because I was not a graduate. The cut-off for selection was 145 points and I fell short by two. Lucky! God wanted me to become a cricketer, not a policeman.

Is it true that you are quite fussy about eating healthy food?
When I am in Nagpur, even if I return home at midnight, I only eat at home. On tours I am always on the lookout for healthy food.

What's good in Nagpur apart from oranges?
Saoji's [a popular chain of restaurants] chicken. I love it. They serve really spicy and oily food. I only visit them once in a while now. My friends keep asking me to join them when they go, but I try to avoid it.

Tell us about your tattoos.
There are five on my left hand - from my shoulder to my arms. The top one across my shoulder is of Lord Shiva - I have been a devotee since childhood. Below it is the maha mrityunjaya mantra, then a depiction of the Virgin Mary, as a mark of respect and love for my mother, who passed away in 2011. She knew I had the ability and supported all my wishes. By the time I was able to fulfil her dreams, she passed away. I also have "blessed child" written on my arm, and the fifth tattoo is a symbol for luck.

You seem to have a soft spot for motorbikes. How many do you own?
I have always enjoyed riding motorbikes. I do not own too many. I just have a Ninja and a Royal Enfield.

"When I am in Nagpur, even if I return home at midnight, I only eat home food. On tours I am always on the lookout for healthy food"

What is the fastest ball you have bowled?
About 152kph, against Sri Lanka in Hobart during the CB Series last year. I am the fastest bowler in India right now. It feels good.

Do you remember the wickets of Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman in the 2009 Duleep Trophy?
How can I forget that? It was a magical moment. It was one of the first turning points of my career. Against Rahul bhai, it was an inswinger and the bat-pad went straight to silly mid-on. Laxman bhai edged to slips [to the keeper]. I was dazed and confused about how I had got the wickets of such big batsmen. That proved to me I had the ability.

Tell us something about Virender Sehwag, your captain at Delhi Daredevils in the IPL.
Last year during a home game, Rajasthan Royals needed two runs off the final delivery. Ajinkya Rahane was facing me. He had already hit me for a six two balls earlier. Before running in for the final delivery, I asked Viru paaji what I should bowl. His answer was: "Mujhe kya pata kya dalna hai? Bowler tu hai. Tu daal jo tujhe daalna hai" ["How should I know what you should bowl? You are the bowler. Bowl what you want to"]. His witty response eased the pressure I was under in that tight moment. Rajasthan lost the match by a run.

In the IPL you have also had the opportunity to share time with the likes of Glenn McGrath. Is there anything he said that you treasure?
I met McGrath during the 2009 IPL, which I could not play because I was injured. During our chats, he said something very interesting. He said there are many bowlers but the good bowler is someone who is consistent. The one who can maintain form is a good bowler. I always try to keep those words in mind each time I make a mistake.

Okay, quiz time: which ground have you played the most number of international matches in?
I think Melbourne. Melbourne. [Reluctantly accepts Adelaide, where he has played one Test and two ODIs.]

What is your nickname?
To everyone in Nagpur - friends and cricket fraternity - I am Babloo. In the Indian dressing room, they call me Umya or Umi, mostly.

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Mahesh on March 20, 2013, 0:16 GMT

    Steyn is quite possibly the best fast bowler ever. Certainly his strike rate is the best in history. It's unfair to compare a relatively unestablished Yadav to one of the true greats.

  • Al on March 19, 2013, 23:15 GMT

    He's a good bowler, but can he stay fit for more than 1 match?? I think Bhuvi and Shami are the future of India's pace bowling, with Yadav thrown in, whenever he is fit. Apart from Shami, we need to try others like Ishwar Pandey, Sid Kaul, Imtiaz Ahmed, etc. There's no shortage of good medium pacers in India.

  • Dummy4 on March 19, 2013, 20:43 GMT

    i think umesh, bhuvi and sreesanth will make a good combo to challenge SA. I chose Sree because he has down well in SA (has already bowled two match-winning spells in SA). This bowling-lineup has pace, variations and consistency in line & length (although sree has less). Main thing is it shudnt be like Australia, where umesh got injured in first test and then for remaining we call up someone like RP singh or maybe that time Shami ahmed which will again de-stabilize the bowling will again leak 500-600 runs

  • Sachin on March 19, 2013, 16:29 GMT

    We Need Umesh and Aaron both fit with Bhuvi and raring to go in SA, NZ, ENG. This bowling attack will really test the home teams.

  • santhanam on March 19, 2013, 11:43 GMT

    100m in 10.56 sec? If he is correct, then India has lost an Olympic medal prospect to cricket.

  • Harish rao on March 19, 2013, 3:26 GMT

    come on umesh i am waiting for to see u in indian squad again.......

  • Nikhil on March 19, 2013, 2:16 GMT

    Umesh Yadav to Indian fast bowling department is similar to what Batman meant to Gotham.... savior! :D Something tells me he will inspire many young fast bowlers. Please come back.... I, like many others, have great expectations from you. Wish you a long and wonderful career!

  • Dummy4 on March 19, 2013, 1:10 GMT

    He will be good for a year or so... and then back to 130.. cant keep himself can India rely on him... We need some one who can perform well on regular basis and stay fit..

  • Dummy4 on March 19, 2013, 1:08 GMT

    Nagaraj, You did NOT ask the most important question, which all Indian cricket fans are looking forward to get a chance to ask him and get an answer. About his fitness, and how early he will be bowling, full throttle.

  • Unmesh on March 18, 2013, 21:06 GMT

    I have a feeling that this fellow is going to be one of the best bowlers India has produced. Although he is injured right now, I am sure he will come back with a bang. Also, I don't think he is going to fall in the trap of "bowling line and length" by sacrificing his speed. He is always going to bowl fast. Good luck, Umesh!

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