"Even when I get hit for a six, Kohli tells me to stay chilled out" - Yuzvendra Chahal Interview
The one great attraction of Indian Premier League is its ability to make stars out of hitherto unknown talented cricketers, and make them part of everyday discussions in India. Before this IPL, Yuzvendra Singh Chahal’s only claim to fame was the one ball he faced in 2011 Champions League T20, where he managed to conjure 2 runs off the last ball, taking Mumbai Indians to a thrilling 1-wicket win.
Hailing from Haryana, Chahal the bowler was an largely unknown entity so far. He had played 6 Champions League T20 and only one IPL match for Mumbai Indians before Royal Challengers Bangalore snapped him up in this year’s IPL auctions, a decision which has proved to be a successful one so far.
In 7 matches, Chahal has picked 8 wickets at an average of 20.12. What’s even better is his economy rate of 5.96 which has earned the bowler trust of his skipper Virat Kohli, who hasn’t shied away from using him in crunch situations.
One trivia which makes this 23-year-old stand out is that he was an U-12 national chess champion in 2002 before he turned his attention to cricket. The year after he won the national championship, he was part of India U-12 Chess team Asian Youth Chess Championships.
Here, in a chat with Sportskeeda, Chahal talks about playing with RCB and his future aspirations:
You’re an U-12 national chess champion! How did transition to cricket happen?
I started playing chess in 1998 and played my first BCCI U-14 match in 2000. Till then I used to juggle both, but 2003 World Cup was a turning point for me and I decided to focus solely on cricket.
Do you employ your chess skills in your cricket? Can you walk us through some of the examples where you’ve out-thought the batsmen in this IPL?
I still play chess sometimes and it definitely helps me in being stronger mentally and think prior about my moves, which has helped in cricket. However most of the times in cricket one has to act depending on a situation, so it’s hard to tell.
How has been the experience of working under Muttiah Muralitharan and Daniel Vettori? What have you learnt from them? How different is it from working under Kumble last season in MI?
It’s been fantastic to have Murali and Vettori to guide (us) and there is a great comfort level as we are all friends. I had a coach and student relationship with Kumble sir and I learned a lot from him. All have been amazing in helping me grow as a bowler.
Almost 5 years have passed since you made your debut in domestic cricket and you’ve played only 14 first-class and 17 list-A matches. Before this season, the same had been the case for you in IPL for MI. How frustrating has life on the bench been? Do you see yourself being a regular in this RCB side now?
Yes it is a little frustrating to be sitting on the benches but then one has to be patient as some things are not in our hand. It all helps you grow and mature as a player. When I was in MI, they couldn’t have played 3 spinners, so these are things one needs to understand and keep working hard. I am happy to have been getting chances with RCB and that I can perform well for them.
How’s the team atmosphere? Did the UAE leg put your side under pressure? What were the words from skipper Virat Kohli after the string of losses?
The team atmosphere is chilled out and stress free. Everyone has a positive frame of mind. Kohli himself is a good player and captain and understands everyone well. There is no pressure. He always asks us to give our best no matter what the result. There are times when I get hit for a six and he just smiles and tells me to stay chilled out and calm.
In a team with Gayle, Kohli and Yuvraj in the side, who’s the biggest prankster in the dressing room?
They all are big pranksters. You cannot predict who is going to pull off which prank and when. It’s fun to have them around.
Who is your biggest idol?
I have idolized Shane Warne since I was a kid and I love everything about his bowling.
What’s your goal for the near future? Do you hope to get a national call-up sometime this year?
I am focusing only at the present moment which is IPL. After this is Ranji. I have to keep performing and working hard and leave the rest.