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Cancer survivor Dave Callaghan on Yuvraj: Take a deep breath and enjoy

Today’s Twenty20 international between India and New Zealand at Visakhapatnam could be one of Yuvraj Singh’s biggest games of his life. Correction: As big as the World Cup final, says Dave Callaghan, the South African all-rounder who like Yuvraj, is a cancer survivor.

Yuvraj Singh
Yuvraj Singh during the new India T20 jersey launch. Pic/Suresh KK

Yuvraj plays his first limited overs international game for India after the 2011 World Cup final in Mumbai.

Callaghan (47) vividly recalled his big comeback match (for Eastern Province vs Transvaal in the B & H Series) after recovering from testicular cancer in 1992. The Port Elizabeth-based Callaghan speaks about the big game as well as Yuvraj’s challenges.

Dave Callaghan
Dave Callaghan

Excerpts:

Like the World Cup final
It will probably be like playing the World Cup final for him. The emotional factor for him will be huge. He needs to look at it obviously as a big game, but at the same time, try and take it as a normal game and enjoy it — enjoy playing cricket with all his friends again.

More memorable than Centurion 1994
I remember making a comeback against Transvaal in a one-day game at St George’s Park in Port Elizabeth (on February 14, 1992). I played a game before that, but it was a ‘B’ game, so I treat this as my comeback game. It was one of the biggest games in my life. A lot of people remember that game more than the one where I got 169 (South Africa vs New Zealand at Centurion in 1994) because it was so emotional to take the field again.

Crying on the pitch
It was quite emotional. There was quite a bit of cheering when I walked out on to the field. I got a standing ovation all the way to the pitch. I remember taking guard and take a couple of minutes off just to wipe the tears from my eyes before Clive Eksteen bowled.

I remember looking at the pitch and I was in tears. I let the crowd settle down a bit, I settled down too and then faced the first ball. When you are diagnosed with cancer, you don’t think that you will get an opportunity to get back to cricket.

You forget the emotional side
Once you get through the first two or three balls, the adrenaline takes over. You actually forget the emotional side of it and the importance of making runs comes back to you with each game.

In the dressing room…
My mates were delighted for me and deep down I felt that my recovery was all worth it. The fact that I got back on the field, scored some runs and played cricket with people I loved playing with, was great. They were all very happy for me and on top of it, we won the game.
(Callaghan was named Man of the Match)

You never lose your talent
I don’t think you lose your talent (when you suffer from cancer), but there comes that fear about not being able to be back on the field again.

All about emotion
About the pressure factor, all I can say is that as a cricketer, you are brought up with some kind of pressure. I don’t think there is going to be any more pressure for Yuvraj than playing in the World Cup final. You are brought playing in pressure situations. The pressure is more from the emotional side than the ability point of view. To walk to the wicket and face the first few balls makes up the emotional pressure.

My advice to Yuvraj…
Take deep breaths while you walk to the wicket and try and calm down.

I’ll be watching…
I can guarantee you that it’s going to be a massive explosion when he walks out to bat. I will be watching it on television and I want to wish Yuvraj the very best. 

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