Chawla: 'My move has nothing to do with pressure to perform'

The 28-year-old spinner, who decided to shift his allegiance to Gujarat, says wickets in the Western region assists spinners and helps them perform better.

Leg-spinner Piyush Chawla is all set to turn out for Gujarat, which won its maiden Ranji Trophy title last year, in the forthcoming domestic season.   -  K.R. DEEPAK

A day after Sportstar reported on Piyush Chawla's decision to shift his allegiance to Gujarat, the Ranji Trophy champion, this season, the 28-year-old leg-spinner from Uttar Pradesh spoke to the publication, on Wednesday, on why he decided to leave his home state after 12 long years.

Excerpts:

Question: What made you quit Uttar Pradesh, where you have spent a dozen years?

To be honest, Gujarat is a side that won 3-4 trophies in the last three years. As a player, I thought this was the right time to make a move. The kind of wickets you get in the Western region — which has a red soil layering — help the spinners better.

I am only 28, and who knows I might still have a couple of good seasons, where I can contribute with the ball, and bat as well. You never know, things might change again.

Is it the only reason for your move to Gujarat?

Look, when I play in Uttar Pradesh, the wickets are either seaming tracks or flat ones. That’s how the weather is. So, it was time to make a move to a state where I can bowl much better and get wickets.

Parthiv and I are good friends. So a couple of years ago, when UP toured Gujarat for a match, I saw the wicket was a turner, and it was helping the spinners. So I had told Parthiv, 'If I ever think of making a move, please keep your options open for me.'

In Gujarat, you will join your former UP team-mate R. P. Singh. With your vast experience, you should be able to boost the side’s spin attack...

Yes, obviously. Gujarat anyway has a good bowling attack with Axar Patel, Jasprit Bumrah and R. P. Singh. When I join them, it would be a good bunch of bowlers. Hopefully, my performance will help. The team already won the Ranji Trophy last season, so it would be nice if we can defend the title again.

How did you strike the deal? The buzz is that your old friend and Gujarat skipper Parthiv Patel had a hand in your new assignment. Is it true?

Parthiv and I are good friends. So a couple of years ago, when UP toured Gujarat for a match, I saw the wicket was a turner, and it was helping the spinners. So I had told Parthiv, 'If I ever think of making a move, please keep your options open for me.'

Last year, I only played a couple of matches for UP as I was injured. I couldn’t play much, and only participated in one-dayers and T20s, because in the second game of the Ranji Trophy itself, I was injured. So, this year I was mulling a change. I spoke to Parthiv and told him about my plans. He and the officials at the Gujarat Cricket Association (GCA) were happy with the move. I am thankful to them that they welcomed me.

But then, many feel that with the rise of youngsters such as Kuldeep Yadav, you are under pressure to perform…

If you see the score-sheet, you will realise that I was the highest wicket-taker (for the side) in the Vijay Hazare Trophy. I was also the highest wicket-taker (for the team) in the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 tournament. I didn’t play the whole season last time due to a hamstring injury. Before that, I didn’t have a good outing in the four-day game, but then, if you see the year we won the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 tournament, I was the highest wicket-taker in India. In Vijay Hazare, I was in third or fourth spot. So, it has nothing to do with pressure or performance.

Did you consult UP captain Suresh Raina before taking a decision?

I had a long, long chat with Raina. He asked me to stay back in UP, but I explained my reasons to him and he understood my point. As a good friend, he backed my decision and was happy about my new assignment, because he understood what I am trying to do.

As the new season beckons, what are your targets?

When you leave your home state and go to a new state, you have added responsibility on your shoulder. I am looking forward to playing with a team that won the Ranji Trophy last year and the Vijay Hazare the year before. It is winning so many trophies. I am happy and glad that they have welcomed me to the set-up. I hope to add value to the team and do something special, so that it helps Gujarat defend the title.