Former India allrounder Yuvraj Singh believes the big difference between players of his generation and the ones today is how they dealt with seniors in the team, specifically in the "sense of respect towards seniors" and appreciating their work.
"The youngsters say anything to anyone now," Singh told Rohit Sharma, India's white-ball vice-captain, during an Instagram chat hosted by the latter on Tuesday.
According to Singh, the other key difference between the two generations is that the current India team has a very small group of seniors - captain Virat Kohli and Sharma in the main - so the youngsters "have very less guys to look up to".
Singh opened up on the subject after Sharma asked him for an appraisal of the current Indian team, not as a player but as someone watching from the outside. "Can you tell us what you find that we are doing good, what we are doing bad, where we can improve as a team," Sharma asked.
Singh, who retired last June, was blunt in his assessment: "See, I will tell you the difference what I felt in this generation and our generation. I felt that our seniors were very disciplined. Obviously, at the time there was no social media, so there were very few distractions. There was a certain behaviour that we boys had to carry watching our seniors - how they play, how they work hard, and how they actually talk to people, how they talk to the media. Because they were great ambassadors of India.
"So I learned a lot that way. And that's what we tried to do and that is what we told you guys that if you have to play for next ten years, after playing for India you have to be more careful about your image.
"[It's the] starting of their [young players'] careers, they are not even playing for India and they are getting such big contracts. So they don't know how to handle the money so they're easily distracted." Yuvraj Singh
"But I feel in this generation, I feel the seniors that are there are only you and Virat Kohli are there, who are playing three formats. I just feel there are very less guys to look up to. And I feel that the sense of respect towards seniors to say something or that respect of how these players have become great, like it has become a thin line now, ki hum kisi ko kuch bhi bol dete hain ab (the youngsters say anything to anyone now)."
As a consequence, Singh said, incidents like the one that led to Hardik Pandya and KL Rahul being suspended in 2018 took place, because there were not enough seniors to guide the younger players. "Because of social media and party scenes and the incident that happened with KL and Hardik, these kind of things during our time we could not even imagine of such things happening during our time because we respected the seniors a lot. We knew that if we did some mistake our seniors would tell us 'yaar, don't do these things, this is not nice'. I feel the atmosphere is not the same. The boys (juniors) do what they want to now."
Singh, however, didn't want to blame the youngsters entirely, saying that they did not know how to "handle" the fame and money that came on the back of big IPL contracts. During his time, seniors like Sachin Tendulkar were in his ear, to caution him at the right time, something that might not be case right now.
"Even after a little bit of success, it's not their fault also because at a young age you get distracted (and) because IPL contracts are so big," Singh said. "[It's the] starting of their careers, they are not even playing for India they are getting such big contracts. So they don't know how to handle the money so they're easily distracted."
"So you need seniors, you need coaches, you guys (seniors) have to talk to the youngsters and explain to them what is important to them - playing for the country and working hard on the field and then all these things follow. Tendulkar always told me that, 'if you perform on the field, everything will follow'.
'They don't want to play Test cricket'
Singh suggested that some of the younger lot were too keen on the limited-overs formats, and not interested in long-form cricket at all. "I was at the National Cricket Academy (in Bengaluru) recently. I was observing (some) boys there don't want to play Test cricket," Singh said. "They don't want to play four-day cricket for their own state. They are happy playing one-day cricket because of IPL.
"Except you guys, I don't think the second generation really wants to play Test cricket. And Test cricket is the real test of a cricketer. So I want the next generation to tell them these things."
Sharma agreed with Singh, recollecting his early years with the Indian team when barring a few youngsters like Suresh Raina and Piyush Chawla, the dressing room was full of seniors. He did, however, point out that he was doing his bit to help the newbies, and presented a recent example of putting an arm around young Rishabh Pant's shoulders after the youngster came under intense scrutiny for his performances in front of and behind the stumps since the 2019 World Cup.
"I keep trying to talk to the guys as much as I can. I talk a lot to Rishabh Pant," Sharma said. "He came under a lot of scrutiny recently. He's just 20 and he became really worried. Apart from Pant, there are five-six people I regularly talk to about these things. This (criticism) will be there as long as you're playing, it's not going to go anywhere."
'Every innings should be the like the last of your career'
The two players also spoke about how they developed the mindset to dominate opposition for longer periods of time, to convert their starts into big scores and play in the zone where they stood out for their excellence. Sharma wanted to know from Singh, the Player of the Tournament at the 2011 World Cup, how he developed that mindset.
"To come into that zone, you need to go through a lot of experience in games. You need that experience," Singh said. "Rishabh Pant, Prithvi Shaw, Shubman Gill, [Shreyas] Iyer and whoever comes as soon as they come we expect them to play like we did, because we have learnt early. That won't happen. It has to be over time when they play certain amount of games. Then they fail, they play domestic cricket and they come back and they play a number of games and with that experience when they have a few knocks like that they get into that zone where they know how to make a big score. Like you and Virat probably know how to convert 60s into hundreds. It will not happen with a lot of younger guys because they don't have that experience.
"Whenever they are not playing international cricket they should be playing domestic cricket or they should be playing any form of cricket where they keep on getting experience of playing a lot of games getting into different kind of situations on different wickets."
Singh called Sharma a good example for the youngsters to follow: "When you were playing in the middle-order, you had some exceptional innings of 70, 80, 90 not out, 65 not out. People were saying, 'wah, Rohit was very good'. But after now that you are opening you have made 200 not out, 260, 200 and 150… so you have taken your game to the next level. That has happened after you playing seven-eight years of international cricket."
Although he agreed with Singh, Sharma stressed that he didn't want the young players to "lose those seven-eight years, and, which is why I keep talking to them and make them understand that you should start learning these things now itself. I make them understand to try and make sure that every innings you play should be the like the last one of your career."