Dubai: If Royal Challengers Bangalore’s legbreak googly bowler Yuzvendra Chahal takes pride in plotting a batsman’s downfall, it’s a craft he may have picked up from his chess playing days. Not many know that the Haryana spinner has even represented India in the game.
In the match against Kings XI Punjab on Monday at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium, he picked up the prize wickets of David Miller and Virender Sehwag to give Bangalore a fright. In an exclusive interview with Gulf News before leaving for India, Chahal said he started playing both games at the age of seven.
“I became an under-12 champion in the 16th national children’s chess championship held in Kolkata in 2002,” he said. “I wanted to grow up to become a chess player and in the next year I got to represent India in the Asian Youth Chess Championships in the under-12 event. The tournament was held in Kozhikode [Kerala] and I ended up between 13-18 positions.
“Then I went on to participate in the World Youth Championships in Halkidiki, Greece but finished 67th. So I wanted to get more training to play chess as I learned chess through computer. I knew that to progress further in chess and get good training, I would need at least Rs500,000 [Dh30,488] a year and I tried my best to get sponsors but couldn’t so I gave up chess.”
Chess’s loss was cricket’s gain. Chahal, who started off by playing for Mumbai Indians, is now happy being with Bangalore as they see him as their best strike bowler.
“I was with Mumbai for the last three years and this year, I was put in the auction,” he said. “I didn’t get to bowl much for Mumbai as they had Harbhajan Singh and Pragyan Ojha. I am enjoying myself here with my new team.”
Chahal puts a lot of thought behind his deliveries, as he did when he played chess. “It was a little slow, two-paced wicket in Dubai,” he said. “I tried out more googlies with Miller and varying the pace with Viru bhai [Virendra Sehwag].”
He trapped both of them but admitted that his team’s total was too small: “A total of 125 is a low one and to win you need early wickets. We were 10 to 15 runs short.
“Chris Gayle, Virat bhai [Virat Kohli], Yuvi pa [Yuvraj] and so many big players are there for us. We need one big score. Hopefully, they will do well in Bangalore. We are not batting well and 120-125 is too small as 140 to 145 runs will be good. There are still nine matches to go, so we will bounce back.”
Chahal, however, has no complaints about his time with Mumbai Indians. “When I was with Mumbai, I bowled in the nets with Kumble sir and now Vettori sir helping me,” he said. “It’s okay if you don’t play, they were two great spinners and I enjoyed working hard with them.”