Mumbai: Royal Challengers Bangalore leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal’s IPL 9 campaign began on an iffy note —two matches, an economy rate kissing the 11-run mark and then dropped from the side.
But then came the turnaround, an uncanny increase in the wickets column — 21 scalps from 13 matches to finish as the second highest wicket-taker behind pacer Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s 23 from 17 games. The reward is a trip to Zimbabwe to represent Team India for the first time.
Under skipper MS Dhoni, India will play three ODIs and as many T20s from June 11 to June 22.
With spinners such as Jayant Yadav and Axar Patel left as options, it is likely that Dhoni might turn to the 25-year-old to lead the spin contingent considering his impressive performance in the IPL.
Is he ready? “Yes, obviously I am. I am just waiting for my chance. It’s the first time that I am going to play under Dhoni sir. I am really excited. Dhoni is the best captain. He’s very calm,” said Yuzi, as called my friends.
Chahal did get a chance to meet ‘Captain Cool’ and he even bowled to him. “Last year before he went to Bangladesh, I bowled to him in Delhi. We just spoke for a few minutes. He told me that I have to use my feet when I bowl,” the Haryana-born spinner, who idolises Shane Warne, added.
Preparations for the Zimbabwe tour will be underway by June 3 and he has his eyes set on the new endeavour. “I am going to Delhi on Friday and will start practice. I will see videos of matches played in Zimbabwe and accordingly prepare myself,” he said.
Chahal, who earned the India call-up purely due to his IPL show credits the league for improving him as a bowler. He picked up the likes of Brendon McCullum, Andre Russell and Dhoni.
“It’s an international tournament. I get a chance to bowl to legends. When you bowl to these guys and do a good job, you get confidence. I was bowling well from last year,” Chahal, who has been with the Bengaluru outfit for the past three seasons, quipped.
As far as the domestic performances go, the stylish cricketer has not been so lucky. His best figures in first-class cricket is 5/241 while in limited-overs cricket, his best figures is 6/22. But he improvised when required.
“I mixed up my variations, varied the pace with my googlies and flippers. I tried it in the IPL and it worked. It will help me in the long run,” he said.
RCB skipper Virat Kohli and coach Daniel Vettori too have played a prominent role in Chahal’s career.
“If someone hit me for two to three sixes, Virat told me that it’s fine, you are bowling well. It’s good if someone hits you for a six from a good ball. Vettori always works on my bowling in the nets. Sometimes when you bowl faster, your body falls down, so Vettori would notice that and would say that you have to stand up and bowl,” Chahal pointed out.
“Virat is not the same (in the dressing room) like he’s on the field. He’s very calm and always positive. Even on the ground, he’s always positive. For a youngster like me, he’s the best person to have on the field. Sometimes I feel the pressure but whenever I see him, I get positive vibes,” Chahal heaped praise on Kohli.
Donning India colours is not new for Chahal, who started off his career as chess master. He, in fact, represented India at the U-12 level in numerous competitions. He is still listed on FIDE’s official site and once upon a time had a rating of 1946.
Now from plotting his opposition’s downfall on 64 squares, he does it on the cricket field. But the tactical sport has helped him in cricket.
“You have to use your brains a lot in chess. Sometimes on the cricket field when you go for runs, you have to use your intelligence to outsmart the batsman. Chess has helped me in that way. Chess is also a game of patience, so when you don’t get wickets you have to be patient. It has really helped my game to become mentally strong,” he said.
But why did he bid adieu to the sport? “I have more interest in cricket and at one point of time you have to choose one sport,” he was prompt with his reply.
He’s got the intelligence, will-power and moreover, the confidence to grow. It will be interesting to see if Chahal tastes the same success beyond Indian frontiers....