Lockdown diaries: Sunil Chhetri dons the chef's hat

India captain Sunil Chhetri jives to ‘Dance monkey,’ makes laddus and settles the Messi vs Ronaldo debate during the coronavirus lockdown.

Sunil Chhetri is spending considerable time in the kitchen.   -  PTI

“I’m fast and clean. I might have a living after football in dishwashing, I’m that good!” Now, when’s the last time you’ve heard someone who’s career stats are comparable with the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi say something like that? Enter Indian football captain, Sunil Chhetri.

Having terrorised defenders for a living, Chhetri has picked up a rather invaluable skill over the coronavirus-induced lockdown: dishwashing. “I have been assigned the task of dishwashing at home and I have become really good over the lockdown,” he says with a tinge of pride in his voice. From lifting many a cup on the football pitch to scrubbing cups clean by the kitchen sink, he seems to have done it all.

The Indian national team captain is at home with his wife at their Bengaluru residence. “I am trying to be of as much as help as I can to my wife with the household chores. I help with cleaning, dusting and making the bed. The other day I cleaned all three bathrooms; it took me almost three hours,” he said in earnest.

India’s most-capped footballer has spent considerable time in the kitchen and has tried his luck at the culinary arts, too. “I am a horrible cook, but I try to make small things like snacks and tea. I saw some vegan recipes on YouTube and tried to make oats laddus the other day and I also made some chia pudding. They came out pretty well!”

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The Bengaluru FC skipper, who is well-known for his uncompromising workout regime and strict diet, endured a bit of a slump heading into the lockdown. “We were knocked out of the Indian Super League on February 8 and till March 10 I did not do any physical activity. I needed the rest because I took a PRP (platelet-rich plasma) injection on my hamstrings. It was long due and I was advised two weeks of rest.

“The first weeks were bad; I was sleeping late and eating whatever I wanted to. I devoured garlic naans, pizzas and burgers. I think it was the first time I had so many cheat meals. I had gained almost 2-3kg in just about a month,” he said. “Thankfully, reality hit me. It’s been almost two weeks now and now I’m back on track. I work out six days a week and take complete rest on one day. I’ve been focusing on band work, cardio, stretching and core workouts at home now,” he added.

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Chhetri also revealed that his go-to tune during a workout is the raging sensation ‘Dance monkey’ by Australian artist Tones and I. “I play it when I work out. I used to call it ‘Monkey dance,’ but my wife corrected me and said it’s called ‘Dance monkey,’” the 35-year-old said sheepishly.

Much like all of us, Chhetri too has succumbed to binge-watching. Having binged on the new Money Heist series, he said he likes to juggle genres.

Chia pudding is proof of Sunil Chhetri's credentials as a budding chef.   -  Special Arrangement

 

“One thing I’ve realised is if you stick to one genre, it gets monotonous and you don’t learn anything new. So I try to juggle around. I watched a few lovely videos about cosmos stuff. I learnt a few things about our solar system, this is what excites me. It is very interesting, give it a shot and you will be mesmerised,” he said.

While his passion for the solar system is evident from his tone, there’s another particular set of videos that keep him going — highlights featuring Messi.

“In fact, even before this interview, I was stretching and was watching a Messi video. And that really lifts me up. If anyone in the world is sad, just put on Messi video and he’ll be happy,” he said.

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“The kinds of goals he scores, his dribbles, his nutmegs, his understanding of the game, his touches are unbelievable. I don’t think you can teach anyone that, you know — you can’t teach someone to dribble five players in your own box. The coach will probably never play you again (if you did that)! But then you watch Messi dribbling five players his own box... He’s just different,” Chhetri said.

With 72 international goals, Sunil Chhetri is the second-highest active international goal-scorer, sandwiched between Cristiano Ronaldo (right) in first spot and Lionel Messi in third.   -  Getty Images

 

With a stunning 72 international goals to his name, Chhetri is the second-highest active international goal-scorer, sandwiched between Ronaldo in first spot and Messi in third.

When asked who he thinks is a more complete footballer, Chhetri says: “If you say that, then I will say Ronaldo. I mean, it’s close. The moment you say complete, it’s about height, heading ability, shooting with both feet, coming back to defend corners also – so, in that aspect, yes, Ronaldo.

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“But generally, as a player, there’s no comparison between Messi and anyone else. He’s just a level up — he’s completely different. If you ask me who affects the game more, it has to be Messi. The build-up play, the passes, the assists, and the understanding. The value of him in Barcelona or Argentina gives him a little edge over Ronaldo. I think he’s the best player.”