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How captain Virat Kohli transformed Yuzvendra Chahal – India spinner explains

Yuzvendra Chahal has been a big wicket-taking weapon for Virat Kohli-led Indian cricket team in ODIs and T20s and has formed a winning combination with Chinaman bowler Kuldeep Yadav

cricket Updated: Mar 24, 2018 09:04 IST
Khurram Habib
Khurram Habib
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Virat Kohli,Yuzvendra Chahal,Kuldeep Yadav
Yuzvendra Chahal says playing under Virat Kohli in Royal Challengers Bangalore has helped develop a bond with the Indian cricket team captain.(BCCI)

Leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal, after a great international season in which he emerged India’s match-winner, returns to the tournament that brought him to prominence – the Indian Premier League.

He is taking it as seriously as he would any assignment with the Indian team. Chahal, 27, was the second highest wicket-taker in IPL 2016 and third best the preceding year. He took 14 wickets in 13 games last year. In just five seasons with Royal Challengers Bangalore and Mumbai Indians, he has tallied 70 scalps.

READ | Yuzvendra Chahal-Kuldeep Yadav’s spin web unbelievable: Virat Kohli

An important cog in India’s wheel in limited-overs,Chahal’s success has helped raise the profile of spinners in limited-overs cricket, especially in the T20 format that was seen to have revolutionised batting. He is one of the new breed of limited-overs specialists, who have made a mark thanks to IPL and despite little first-class cricket behind them.

Chahal is already being talked about as a certainty for the 2019 World Cup in England, although the Haryana bowler says he is taking it one step at a time.

“I am not looking that far ahead. I am going step by step. IPL is the next step and I am looking forward to performing for my team there.”

READ | Yuzvendra Chahal – Inexperienced India’s bowling ‘mentor’ in 2018 Nidahas Trophy

IPL lift career

Chahal credits IPL for his success. The pressure situations IPL games throw up, the Chinnaswamy Stadium where he plays – it boasts an excellent batting surface with short boundaries – are all challenges that have prepared him for international battles.

Chahal says playing under Virat Kohli in Royal Challengers Bangalore has helped develop a bond with the India captain. “I have played under him at RCB for four years. Obviously, we have developed a bond and trust. It becomes easier with him around. He’s seen you for so many years. He gives you the freedom to set your own fields, bowl to your strengths. That is all because of the trust developed over the years.”

For Chahal, the tours to South Africa and Sri Lanka have been learning experiences, especially coming up with Plan B when chips are down. One prime example was South Africa batsman Heinrich Klaasen attacking him in the second T20 in Centurion.

Klaasen’s 30-ball 69 helped South Africa win by six wickets, and it was a good lesson for Chahal, though India went on to win the series.

READ | Why Virat Kohli wants to gift Indian cricket team spinner Yuzvendra Chahal a watch

“It was a learning process. I went back to nets. I was prepared to do better, bring about variations. My focus was on the next overs as I tried to forget the mistakes. I tried to keep the deliveries away from the batsman, a bit wide so that they don’t get under it.”

Off-spinner Washington Sundar’s success in the recent Nidahas T20 tri-series victory in Sri Lanka has given India another spin option. Chahal says Sundar’s success in the powerplay overs helped him and the team to focus on the later overs. Chahal earlier bowled in the powerplay periods as well.

“Sundar did a very good job. He bowled well in the powerplay and gave me the option to bowl later. It gave our team options in the later overs. We didn’t merely have medium pacers, but also four overs of mine in the post-powerplay overs. That gave our bowling more variety,” he said.

Few first-class games

For a bowler who has risen to become among the best in the world in shorter formats and a hot property in Indian cricket, his first-class experience is very limited. Despite having made his debut eight years back, he has played just 27 first-class games. However, last season saw him emerge a key bowler in the Haryana attack. He played seven Ranji Trophy games, taking 33 wickets. That and his performance in ODIs in South Africa prompted Virat Kohli to say the leg-spinner and Chinaman bowler Kuldeep Yadav make a case for inclusion in Tests.

“Every cricketer dreams of playing Test cricket. If I get a chance, I will be geared up. I think I am good enough and will be ready to play whenever I get a chance. There is a bit of a difference in the way you bowl. You have to be more patient in Test cricket. One of the reasons I played fewer first-class games was because we (Haryana) mostly play our home games at Lahli, which has a seamer-friendly surface, and Mishy bhai (leg-spinner Amit Mishra) being the senior pro would usually play. But last season, I played seven games and took 33 wickets.”

First Published: Mar 24, 2018 08:33 IST