Yuzvendra Chahal unplugged: No pressure, no worries, only googlies

India leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal likes being part of domestic cricket to try out tactics and plans before wearing the blue jersey.

Keeping busy: Whenever I am not playing for India, I make it a point to play domestic cricket, says Yuzvendra Chahal.   -  REUTERS

 

When he is not bowling in the nets or training, you will find Yuzvendra Chahal chatting with his teammates in one corner of the dressing room, or playing PubG on his phone.

That’s how it has been for the 29-year-old spinner.

Ask him and he admits that keeping things simple has worked well for him. Having featured in 50 One-Day Internationals (ODIs) and 34 Twenty20 Internationals (T20Is) for India and scalping a total of 135 wickets, Chahal knows what it takes to find breakthroughs in crunch times.

But then, he is not willing to rest on his laurels. “As a professional player, you need to perform in every situation and I am just trying to continue with that,” he says.

In Mumbai, to play the group league fixtures of the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy for Haryana, Chahal spoke to Sportstar at the Bandra-Kurla Complex on a range of issues.

The last few weeks have been quite busy for you. After the T20I series against Bangladesh, you turned up for Haryana in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy. How has been the experience so far?

Whenever I am not playing for India, I make it a point to play domestic cricket. This is a T20 tournament and now that a lot of T20Is and ODIs are coming, I thought this will help me. You are playing against very good domestic sides, and now that we have qualified for the Super League, there are opportunities to play against some stronger sides like Karnataka. So, leading up to the international cricketing season, this experience will help for sure.

You featured in five league matches of the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy and scalped only three wickets. Coming from international cricket, how difficult is it to adjust to domestic cricket?

I see the situation and a lot depends on when I am bowling and what is required from me. That’s something I do when I play for India and I try to follow the same thing in the domestic circuit. It is about reading the batsmen right and understanding their mindset. As a key bowler, that’s very important. In the domestic tournaments, the wickets are different from international cricket, and my idea is to adapt to them as quickly as possible and bowl accordingly. The process remains the same, it’s just about executing the plans properly.

What are the things that you do differently while playing in the domestic tournaments?

When you play well here, it gives you confidence. In these games, you can understand how things stand and what are the areas you need to work on. If you can get the rhythm here, it helps you gain confidence and that effectively reflects on your performance at the higher level. So, these experiences are really helpful for a cricketer. It helps you get a better idea about your game.

For some time, India’s spin department was all about you and Kuldeep Yadav. But now, with Kuldeep taking a backseat in limited-overs cricket, has the pressure mounted on you?

We are professional cricketers, so our job is to perform at whatever level we are playing. I played with Kuldeep for two years as a pair and there was a good bonding with him. I enjoyed bowling with him as we had a great understanding. But now that he is focusing on Tests, I am bowling with Jaddu (Ravindra Jadeja), Krunal (Pandya) and Rahul Chahar. It has been a good learning experience for me because after two years, I am suddenly bowling with different people. It’s a good challenge, so I would not say that there’s any pressure. As a professional player, you need to perform in every situation and I am just trying to continue whatever I did in the last two years.

Chahal had a good partnership with Kuldeep Yadav in limited-overs cricket, but it has now been broken with Kuldeep trying for a Test spot.   -  K. R. DEEPAK

 

You were not a part of the T20I side against South Africa. So, in the series against Bangladesh, did you try something different?

In the Bangladesh series, I was the most experienced bowler, so my job was to go for wickets. Rohit bhaiya (captain Rohit Sharma) and the team management had told me that I could just go about executing the plans. I bowled keeping the situation in mind. Sometimes I had to check the runs, and at times the focus would be to pick up quick wickets. So, I just went about doing that. The idea was to play according to the situation and perform whenever the team needed.

Now with more young spinners coming up, how challenging is it to cement your place in the national team?

If you are performing well on the international stage, you do not need to think about other things. My job is to perform, and if I am not selected, I can’t do much about it. You can’t think about something which is not in your hands. Even the selectors believe in me. It’s good if some newer guys are drafted into the team. They play the IPL and their inclusion does add to our bench strength. So, it’s a good thing because you can’t pick someone suddenly and expect him to fare well on the international stage. So, it’s a right move. When I came back after two series, I did not suffer any pressure. I just focused on my job.

You have played under the captaincy of both Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma. How different are they as leaders?

They have a similar approach. Both of them give enough liberty to the bowlers. They back the bowlers to the hilt and give them the field placements they require, so there is not much of a difference. Maybe Virat is a bit more aggressive, Rohit isn’t. The thinking is the same — give the players the liberty and win matches for the team. They have always given me the opportunity to play freely, without thinking about anything else. That has always been helpful.

During the Bangladesh series, you were seen having frequent conversations with Rohit. Did he tell you to focus on a particular area?

I think we have to work on our approach towards the DRS (laughs). Jokes apart, Rohit boosted my confidence and told me to keep the momentum going. I came back after two-three series, so he told me not to think too much about the past and focus on the future. Those words actually boosted my morale.

Yuzvendra Chahal discusses a point with Rohit Sharma (extreme right) during the T20I series against Bangladesh.   -  AFP

 

You spoke about DRS. But over the last few years, India hasn’t really mastered the art of using it. Is that a concern?

The umpires are human after all, so there are times when there could be some mistakes. So, if the bowler and the wicketkeeper are sure that there was a nick, we can appeal the decision. There’s only one DRS in T20Is and ODIs, so you have to be fully sure before opting for a review. It’s good learning for everyone.

This time, the IPL governing council plans to have an umpire to exclusively monitor no-balls. How do you see the move?

It’s a good move because there are times when you lose a match just because of one wrong call. Umpires may make mistakes, but if there is someone exclusively monitoring the no-balls, it takes the pressure off the umpires as well. They can focus more on the leg-befores and the other aspects. So, it definitely is a good move.

After taking charge as the president of the BCCI, Sourav Ganguly has said that he will improve the standard of first-class cricket. Having played domestic cricket for long, do you think that there are any areas that need to be changed?

The BCCI has done a good job in developing the domestic cricket structure. Now you have new teams coming up, and some of those teams like Pondicherry and Meghalaya have done well in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy. They have beaten big teams like Mumbai, Assam. So, you see more players are coming up and it’s a good move. The game is growing in all the parts of the country and that shows in the performances of these new teams. The players have dedication, they want to play. We are getting good games, good wickets, so every state is reaping benefits out of it. We are enjoying it all. I think everything is fine. We have good venues and after every tournament, there is sufficient time for rest. So, everything looks good.

With a long international season coming up, how do you plan to monitor your workload and also focus on your fitness?

When I am playing continuously, I don’t do gym much. I just work on the shoulder. But whenever I have time, I make it a point to do some long running sessions and improve on strength and conditioning.

What are your targets for the season?

You don’t have any control over injuries. Injuries can happen anytime. But the focus should be on improving the level of fitness. The physios and trainers set a plan for me and I just need to work accordingly.

Do you have any ambitions of donning the whites for India?

Everyone wants to play Test cricket. If someone refers to you as a ‘Test cricketer’, you feel more proud, compared to T20Is or ODIs. It’s my dream to play Test cricket for India someday.