Piyush Chawla - The desire that keeps burning
It's hard to believe that Piyush Chawla is still in his 20s; when he debuted for India more than 12 seasons ago, there were no IPLs, no T20 World Cups, and no Virat Kohli for the world to go gaga about.
From his days of early success as a 17-year-old who dismissed Sachin Tendulkar to now being a seasoned campaigner with a World Cup, a World T20 and an IPL title under his kitty, Chawla has evolved with the changing times but hasn't played for India in the last six years.
A few days after ending a fruitful season with the Kolkata Knight Riders, and now back to his hometown after three months, Chawla took some time out to interact with Sportskeeda, speaking about T20's obsession with leg-spinners, the 2018 IPL, and the dream of a Team India comeback.
From the time you made your international debut to now, the demand for leg-spin has changed. Now every team has at least one wrist spinner. What do you think has brought in the shift?
Leg-spinners have always been an attacking option. Earlier, batsmen never used to take as many chances: even against finger spinners, they used to block deliveries. Leg-spinners used to leak runs but also pick up wickets.
Nowadays, the game has become so fast that no matter who's bowling, everyone leaks runs. Leggies give you an extra advantage of picking up wickets: the best way to contain any team is to get wickets and wrist spin gives you the biggest advantage in that sense.
Does your approach as a leg-spinner change with different formats?
Not at all. The best way to contain the batsman is by picking up wickets. If you'd have noticed, this season also, I bowled the most of my overs in the Powerplays. In the Powerplay overs, it is not easy for anyone to bowl, be it a pacer or spinner. If a leg-spinner is bowling with variations, he has more chances of picking up wickets.
My role never changes as a leg-spinner.
Do you think finger spin is on the decline?
It's not really the case. If you see, the quality finger spinners, they are really doing a really good job at any level.
As things have changed, as a cricketer you have to become smarter, you need more planning. It is not a dying art: quality finger spinners have still been doing well.
You employ the googly much more than other leg-spinners. What's the reason for that?
If you are a conventional leg-spinner, you don't get that much pace on your leg-spin. With the wrong 'un, the natural angle you get gives you more pace on your deliveries.
It also depends on where you're playing as well, varying wicket to wicket. If I am playing in Bangalore, where the wicket has become quite slow these days, or if I am playing on a wicket like Hyderabad, I can still bowl slower in the air.
Where I need pace, 50-55% of my deliveries are wrong 'uns.
What's your take on the domestic cricket? Is it going in the right direction? What changes can be made to improve it?
Domestic cricket in India is doing really well because of the kind of format that we have and the level of competition that is there. The standard has gone up because there are so many players representing franchises in the IPL, which gives them the right exposure.
IPL is as good as international cricket. When you play IPL and go back to domestic cricket, the players who played IPL are now playing Ranji Trophy and Vijay Hazare. They are still the same players, and the competition, as well as the standard, automatically goes up.
There is always scope for improvement, it changes day by day, so you can't really pinpoint on one single thing. The BCCI is doing well for domestic cricketers, and I am thankful to them for doing so much: they have brought in so many changes for the good of the game.
How would you look back at the IPL season this year, for the Kolkata Knight Riders and for yourself?
It was really good for the Kolkata Knight Riders, if you leave out the odd games. It is bound to happen in T20s: there are few games for you to win and you lose them, and there are some games you feel you are not making it to the top, and you still end up winning them.
Overall, we played some really good cricket as a team.
On a personal front, I had a fantastic IPL, if you look at the number of overs I bowled this season, I bowled the most difficult overs. Going less than 8.5 runs per over and bowling in the power-plays, I think I can pat myself on the back.
At this juncture in your career, what keeps you motivated?
The passion and love for the game. Even when I started playing cricket, I never thought I have to play it professionally. I started playing for the love of the game. I knew this is something that I enjoy.
It is still the same for me. I still go to the field and enjoy it like I used to as a kid.
Are you still actively eyeing a Test recall?
Looking at the numbers from my Ranji season, I took 30+ wickets, then took a good number of wickets in the Vijay Hazare, and followed it up with a great IPL.
There's always a chance, and one must never lose hope. There are a few things beyond my control. I am only working on the process and doing my best. Rest of the things that are not under my control, I am not even thinking about it.
If it happens it is good, but if it doesn't go my way, I'll still put in more effort.