With 32 wickets in 20 outings, Yuzvendra Chahal has already left a mark in the international circuit for India. Batsman finds it difficult to pick his googly. The leg-spinner from Haryana gave an exclusive interview to CricketSoccer before the start of the India-New Zealand series.
Here are the excerpts:
CricketSoccer (CS): New Zealand series is knocking at the door, how did you prepare yourself for this clash?
Yuzvendra Chahal (YC): I have done my training at the National Cricket Academy (NCA) at Bengaluru. I spent a lot of time there hitting the gym. Any cricketer looking for success in international stage is bound to emphasize on his fitness and as a bowler, I have to be on he top of my fitness. Apart from physical training, I have bowled a lot in the nets too. You can say I am ready for this series.
CS: That means you were practising hard while almost all of your teammates were celebrating Diwali holidays with their family?
YC: It is a much deserved break for the entire team. But for me, I am in no mood for celebrations as my entire focus is on cricket these days. I have to cement my place in the playing XI and that is only possible by performing on a regular basis. I got the chance and am doing well for the national team. I want to keep all the boxes ticked. Therefore I preferred to spend these holidays in the NCA, practising for the betterment of my game.
CS: You used to represent India in international chess in the Under 16 age group. Then you chose to become a cricketer. How would you describe your journey so far?
YC: Yes, to some people, it’s like a fairy tale. I started with chess then began to play both the games, you know. But it was tough to carry on both the games and after a certain stage, I have had to choose any one of the two. I chose cricket. I would like to mention one more fact behind my decision. India was playing the 2003 world cup then and the team’s performance under the leadership of Sourav Ganguly had left a deep impression on the entire country. There was a lot of craze around the Indian team and that played a major role in my life too, as I became fascinated to play cricket on a bigger stage. In 2000, I first played for Under 14 Haryana. But after the completion of the 2003 World Cup, I began to play the game more seriously. I represented Haryana Under 17, Under 19 and Under 25 teams and played Ranji Trophy, the premier domestic tournament for 7 years on a trot with success. I have done well in the Indian Premier League (IPL) as well.
CS: Please tell something about your early days in cricket…
YC: I didn’t join any so-called academy. I and some of my friends used to gather in a local ground and played cricket with a tennis ball. Then we started to play with deuce ball. Randhir Singh Chowdhury was my first coach. Then I was selected for a camp at the NCA. There I got the chance to train under former spinners of India – Mr. Narendra Hirwani and Mr. Maninder Singh. It is because of them that I fell in love with the art of spin bowling. Anirudhh Chowdhury is always a great support. And obviously my father Mr. Krishna Kumar Chahal. He is a lawyer. But he used to play cricket and is a great admirer of the game. He always wanted that I play cricket. I used to practice under him also. There are so many people who extended their helping hands. I am grateful to everybody.
CS: Chess is such a game which needs a lot of concentration. Do you feel it is helping you on the cricketing field?
YC: Yes, to an extent. Chess is a patience game and it makes you learn how to keep cool in a pressure situation. Sometimes you will not get wickets and you have to be patient, you know. You can say that for playing chess for so many days, I have learnt how to keep calm on those times.
CS: You are a wrist spinner. Batsmen like to attack such a bowler and there is every possibility that you get hit for a four or six. What is your basic approach when you bowl to an aggressive batsman?
YC: From the very start of my career, I love to go for wickets. Sometimes, it depends on the situation to determine how to bowl to a certain batsman, you know. As for example, if we bat first, I just see how many runs are there in our kitty so that I can bowl on an attacking line and length. Sometimes I have to content runs. And as you said, batsmen really like to attack a wrist spinner which is a blessing in disguise to me. See, if batsman attacks you, he will give you chances. As a bowler, you just have to wait for those chances and make the best use of them. Batsman playing shots mean there is every possibility that you take his wicket. But having said that, everything depends on the match situation.
CS: You have played under Virat Kohli in Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) in IPL and now you are playing under his captaincy in the national team as well. What is Virat’s impact on your career?
YC: You can say he helps me a lot like when I play for RCB, he gives me full liberty to execute my plans on the field. In the national side also, he never asks like you know, you have to bowl in this area or you have to do this. He just says bowl as per your plan and wants to know what type of field set I require. He always wants me to attack and take wickets. Virat tells me not to bother about runs and just bowl on an attacking line and length. That is why I never hesitate to flight the balls and provoke the batsmen to drive. Virat is an aggressive captain and he likes to play attacking cricket. You will only do well when your skipper is so much support. And I would like to mention Mahi (Mahendra Singh Dhoni) Bhai’s contribution as well.
CS: How is it?
YC: Being a wicketkeeper, Mahi Bhai always stays in a better position to read a batsman’s strength and weakness. And he is someone who can read any situation very quickly. Whenever he has some idea for me, he comes straight to me and gives instructions. Mahi Bhai’s presence behind the stumps makes me a better bowler. I always ask for his suggestions.
CS: You share a very good understanding with Kuldeep Yadav and bowling in partnership, you guys have made the life of batsmen difficult one. Your thought.
YC: Kuldeep and I are very good friends also off the field. I would also like to mention Axar Patel’s name. Any two of us usually get to play in a match but we have no competition among us, take my words. Rather, we discuss among us how to bowl against a certain batsman. You can say that we three share a very good bonding. It is reflected in our performances as well.
CS: Whom do you follow in cricket?
YC: I am a great admirer of Shane Warne. I’ve always followed him. In 2011, I had a chance to get introduced to him. But couldn’t speak to him regarding bowling. Would love to have an interaction with him in near future.