India's Yuzvendra Chahal
India's Yuzvendra Chahal, left, celebrates the dismissal of South Africa's Rassie van der Dussen during the Cricket World Cup match at the Hampshire Bowl in Southampton. Image Credit: AP

Southampton: It was nice to know directly from Yuzvendra Chahal, India’s star performer against South Africa on Wednesday, on the influence of chess on his cricket.

Thanks to International Cricket Council (ICC), which has arranged ‘Mixed Zone’ like football after the match through which one can interact with a few cricketers up close after the match, Chahal was allowed to be asked questions on his game.

Chahal was an Under-12 national chess champion who had represented India in the World Youth Chess Championship at the age of 16 but gave up chess due to paucity of funds to pursue his career.

Today, he is not only a rich man but also someone who returns rich hauls in almost every match.

Indian skipper Virat Kohli, in the post-match press conference, even mentioned that Chahal thinks differently due to his chess background. Asked about it, Chahal said: “I had left chess almost 16 years ago, but still the patience that I have has come from chess. In chess too, you have to think 10-15 moves ahead and especially when you bowl to a batsman like Faf (du Plessis), if you bowl slightly loose balls then it goes for a six. So to these batsmen, you have to bowl your best deliveries, when to bowl the variations such as a googly or a flipper. I always give some thought about if the batsman is picking it or not.”

Speaking about the four-wicket haul against the Proteas, Chahal said: “For me, the most satisfying one was that of Faf because he is their main batsman and in pretty good touch too. I had planned his wicket as well. So that happiness is there when a plan worked out well.

Chahal then explained the thinking that behind Faf’s wicket. “My ball was drifting pretty well at that time. I thought that I can bowl the slider at that time on the off stump, it drifted onto middle stump and he didn’t pick that. It hit the pad and went on to the stumps.”

Chahal does not like to be affected by pressure. “I think I have played 40 matches already and I’ve played the IPL as well, so I’m used to pressure now. If you think that it’s a World Cup, then there will be pressure. I try not to do that and continue doing what I have done before.”

Chahal also admitted that the pressure is less when the pacers take early wickets. “Until now, I’ll give full credit to the pacers because when they pick one or two wickets in the first 10 overs, then there’s less pressure on me as well as on Kuldeep (Yadav). We can go after wickets then. Sometimes when you come in at 80 for no loss, then we too will have some doubt. But when we are mentally clear after 10 overs, Kuldeep and I bowl accordingly.”

Speaking on his chemistry with co-spinner Yadav, Chahal said: “We talk often. He had bowled three overs before me so I asked him about how the pitch is playing. He said that if you bowl wicket-to-wicket and vary your pace, it’ll be difficult for the batsmen.”