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

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