From once representing India at the Under-14 chess level to now going on to take part in his first major ICC tournament, the World Cup 2019 - wrist-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal has come a long way.
The Haryana spinner, who made his international debut in 2016 has established himself as one of the mainstays for India in the limited-overs format, alongside the talented Kuldeep Yadav.
Not only has his attacking mindset worked in his favour but Chahal’s temperament has helped him remain calm in pressure situations. He credited chess for playing a major part.
“Chess has helped me to be patient. Sometimes when I have an off day, I need to quickly switch to another plan and not panic,” he was quoted as saying by The Times of India.
“There are also days when you feel you are bowling really well but the wickets are not coming. Even then I need to calm myself down. In high-pressure games, you need to stay calm to understand what the batsmen could do,” he added.
Modern-day one day International cricket has now very much become a batsman’s game with flat wickets and fast outfields contributing to high totals. When asked about how he plans to counter such wickets, Chahal stressed on the need for preparation.
“It depends on the situation. Then we look at the size of the ground. If it’s a small ground and the pitch is flat, you won’t see us flighting the ball as frequently. And then you watch how eager the batsman is and quickly analyse his strengths. But when you first arrive at the venue, you analyse the dimensions and conditions and then you go back to your room and draw a plan.
“The important bit is to talk to the senior batsmen like Mahi bhai [Dhoni], Virat, Rohit and Shikhar. You ask them how they would approach their batting in such conditions. And they have played at most venues around the world. They have a better idea,” he explained.
Chahal, who has credited MS Dhoni for his success multiple times in the past, also revealed how the veteran keeper-batsman’s inputs still remain integral.
“Whatever happens, you need Mahi bhai. We still obey what he says. He intervenes when we go wrong. It was the same when we first arrived. Even today, if we plan something of our own, we feel the need to talk to him about it,” he said.
Modern day cricket has seen the demand for wrist spinners grow. It was the same with the Indian team where after the 2017 Champions Trophy final heartbreak, the management opted to cope without the experience of finger spinners like Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja.
Ashwin has now been confined to the sidelines with Jadeja preferred as a third specialist spinner. However, Chahal felt it was unfair to compare him and Kuldeep with India’s former spin pair.
“There was no pressure on us. We got an opportunity and we grabbed it. There was a talk that Ashwin and Jadeja were left out at our expense. There’s nothing like that.
“We were just doing our job. We are not close to them in terms of the number of wickets they have taken together. Comparing us to them is as unfair as comparing Virat to Sachin Tendulkar. Kuldeep and I enjoy every moment like you do when you sit for a final exam,” he added.