Yuzvendra Chahal had an excellent season with RCB during IPL  © IANS
Yuzvendra Chahal had an excellent season with RCB during IPL © IANS

Yuzvendra Chahal had another impressive stint with Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) in Indian Premier League (IPL) 2015. The impressive leg-spinner spoke about his equations with Virat Kohli and Sachin Tendulkar, his history as a chess player, and more in a chat with Shiamak Unwalla.

CricketCountry (CC): What motivated you to be a leg-spinner?

Yuzvendra Chahal (YC): I started out as a medium pacer when I was younger. I started bowling leg-spin slightly later on. In 2000 I played for Haryana at an under-14 level, and since then I’ve been a leg-spinner.

CC: What prompted you to change from medium-pace to leg-spin?

YC: At that age I didn’t even know what leg-spin was, but it felt good bowling like that so I stuck with it.

CC: A lot of people don’t know this about you, but you also represented India in chess…

YC: Yes, I played the 2003 under-12 World Chess Championship.

CC: What made you choose cricket over chess?

YC: I was more interested in cricket. I felt I wanted to play only cricket.

CC: Does your knowledge of chess help in any way while playing cricket?

YC: Yes, it helps build patience and you tend to get mentally strong. Quite often it happens that you aren’t getting wickets, so you have to be patient and persistent. Chess also helps you play mental games as well. In chess you have to be seven steps ahead; similarly in cricket you have to outthink the batsman. You have to analyse the batsman, figure out his strengths and weaknesses and bowl accordingly.

CC: Harshal Patel is your captain at Haryana and your teammate at RCB. Does having a Haryana teammate in the dressing room help?

YC: We are quite close. If one of us isn’t performing, the other helps out and gives inputs. We’ve known each other for about five-six years. Moreover, Anirudh Chaudhary (Haryana secretary) who has seen me play since I was a child, keeps helping me out and giving inputs. Narendra Hirwani Sir also conducts a week-long spin camp. When I was with Mumbai Indians (MI) I even had Maninder Singh to help me.

CC: The current Haryana team has a few international players like Amit Mishra and Mohit Sharma…

YC: They share their experiences. They are also quite confident having played for India. Mishra is probably the best leg-spinner in India, maybe even in the world — given his IPL and domestic performances. So these guys tell you the dos and don’ts to get to international level.

CC: Speaking of Mishra, your styles are completely different. He relies more on flight and turn, while you’re a precision bowler. How do you learn from each other?

YC: Usually we discuss what line and length to bowl to different batsmen, how to bowl on certain pitches.

CC: You aren’t someone who experiments with a lot of variations. Your strength is a persistent line and length. Are you trying out any variations or are you satisfied with the way you’re bowling?

YC: I’m happy with the way I’m bowling for now, but I know that to sustain at the highest level then you have to keep trying new things. Hence in the off season I will try out some variations and see what suits my style of bowling.

CC: Moving on to IPL, how has your success there influenced you in domestic cricket?

YC: It’s a huge boost to your confidence. If you do well in IPL playing against domestic as well as international players, you tend to get some confidence.

CC: You bowl to the likes of AB de Villiers and Chris Gayle in the nets at RCB. What is that like? Do they bat similarly in the nets as they do in the middle?

YC: It depends. Some days they just play with a straight bat and defend anything. AB bats very calmly in the nets. I haven’t seen him hitting a cross-batted shot in the nets, not even a sweep. Gayle is moody. Sometimes he will play slowly, but other times he wants to hit every ball for six.

CC: What is Kohli like off the field?

YC: He’s completely the opposite of what he is on the field. He’s a really simple guy. He is aggressive on the field, but off it he is different. He really supports us both on and off the field. I enjoy playing under him. He is very supportive. I’ve played under him for two years now. When I saw him on TV earlier I always thought he was very aggressive, but he isn’t really like that in real life.

CC: What tips did you get from Muttiah Muralitharan and Daniel Vettori?

YC: Murali Sir told me that you have to be confident in whatever you do. Vettori Sir gives me a lot of technical advice. Sometimes while you’re bowling you don’t realise it but you take a long bowling stride or your body falls away. Since Vettori Sir has seen me bowl for a couple of years now he immediately points that out.

CC: You have seen and worked with a lot of spinners. Who do you look up to the most?

YC:  Shane Warne is my idol.

CC: You played for Mumbai Indians before transferring to RCB. What was your experience with someone like Sachin Tendulkar?

YC: People say “Sachin Tendulkar” and we all know him as a legend, but when you speak to him he never makes you feel like you are talking to someone so big. He is so humble; he talks normally and mixes with the youngsters as well. I never felt like I was talking to a legend.

CC: India will be touring Zimbabwe soon, and there are a few India A tours coming up as well. Do you feel you have a chance of making it to the squads?

YC: I haven’t thought about that. My job is to perform well; it is up to the selectors to make the final decision. I have to just keep performing.

CC: Moving on to some rapid fire questions…

CC: Who is your best friend in RCB?

YC: Mitchell Starc.

CC: Who is the team joker?

YC: Sarfaraz Khan.

CC: Speaking of which, why “Panda?” Who named him that?

YC: He keeps eating all the time, and he’s quite plump as well. Iqbal Abdulla named him.

CC: Who is the best dancer in the team?

YC: You could say Chris Gayle.

CC: Describe the following players in one word…

CC: Mitchell Starc.

YC: Simple.

CC: Virat Kohli.

YC: Perfect.

CC: Sarfaraz Khan.

YC: Kid.

CC: Chris Gayle.

YC: Funny.

So, to sum up, Starc is a much nicer guy than Kieron Pollard thinks, de Villiers bats like a normal human being in the nets, Sarfaraz IS Panda, Gayle is funny and a dancer (who knew?), and Kohli is nowhere near as aggressive off the field.

(Shiamak Unwalla, a reporter with CricketCountry, is a self-confessed Sci-Fi geek who loves cricket more than cricketers. His Twitter handle is @ShiamakUnwalla)