The upcoming ICC World Cup may be his first major global tournament in cricket but Yuzvendra Chahal has already experienced a World Cup in chess – he represented India at the U-14 level. India’s big leg-spinning hope talks to TOI about his transition from a chess player to a cricketer, working out batsmen, relationship with Kuldeep Yadav and more.Excerpts from an interview.How do you look back at your chess career?I don’t have any regrets but unn dino ki yaadein aati hain. (But I do think about those days). I have played good five-six years of chess. I have very fond memories. Representing India at the age of 14 is a big thing. I had to choose between cricket and chess because it would have been difficult to pursue both. You can put it this way that I had two per cent more interest in cricket.
The World Cup is going to be your first major ICC tournament. How much does having played a chess World Cup at 14 inspire you?Chess has helped me to be patient. Sometimes when I have an off day, I need to quickly switch to another plan and not panic. There are also days when you feel you are bowling really well but the wickets are not coming. Even then I need to calm myself down. In high-pressure games, you need to stay calm to understand what the batsmen could do.After quitting chess, you went into the grind of domestic cricket? Did you have any alternate plan?I made sure I completed my graduation in humanities. I realized being a graduate and a decent cricketer gave me an option to go for government jobs as well. You can never plan thinking you are definitely going to play for India or end up playing a World Cup. At that time, I realized that I could not become a doctor. I needed to ave options.
Modern-day ODI cricket sees huge totals. How do you plan a wicket?It depends on the situation. Then we look at the size of the ground. If it’s a small ground and the pitch is flat, you won’t see us flighting the ball as frequently. And then you watch how eager the batsman is and quickly analyse his strengths. But when you first arrive at the venue, you analyse the dimensions and conditions and then you go back to your room and draw a plan. The important bit is to talk to the senior batsmen like Mahi bhai (Dhoni), Virat, Rohit and Shikhar. You ask them how they would approach their batting in such conditions. And they have played at most venues around the world. They have a better idea.How difficult is it to put pressure back on the batsmen?The game is all about pressure. I know the opposition batsman is under more pressure to get the extra runs in this scenario. They get edgy trying to win matches for their teams.