Meet Yuzvendra Chahal – the wrist spinner from Jind, Haryana, who has been picked in the Indian one-day and T20 team for the upcoming tour of Zimbabwe. MS Dhoni can now call upon a bowler who outwits opposition batsmen with a brain that was trained on the chess board.
In fact, donning the national colours won’t be anything new for Chahal, who has represented the country in the Asian as well as world youth championships in chess when he was in his early teens. Leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal, selected for the Indian cricket team’s tour of Zimbabwe, is still listed on FIDE’s official site and once had a FIDE rating of 1946.
“Chess helps me in plotting the opposition batsman’s dismissal. I try to be one step ahead of the batsman, especially in T20 where the bowler has to think on his feet,” says the 25-year-old. “When the batsman is going hard, I try to remain calm. My chess training helps me in staying focused with the job in hand.”
Since the age of 7, Chahal had an equal interest in both chess and cricket. Gradually he started doing well in age-group chess tournaments and his focus was more on making it big on the board. He was the under-12 national chess champion, then represented India at the Asian Youth Championship in Kozhikode and also went on to play for India at the World Youth Chess Championship in Greece.
But his promising chess career was nipped in the bud as he couldn’t find any sponsors. All this while, Chahal used to learn the tricks of the sport with the help of a computer. “To progress in chess, he needed about Rs 50 lakh per annum and we could not find sponsors. So, he had to abandon the game. He does play it as a hobby these days,” says father K K Chahal, who is an advocate.
On the pitch, Chahal first got noticed when he took 2/9 in 3 overs during the Champions League T20 final against Royal Challengers Bangalore, which helped Mumbai Indians lift the title in 2013. That performance helped him get a contract with Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB).
The Royal Challengers bowler has been in superlative form this IPL season and is presently wearing the purple cap, having scalped the most number of wickets so far. He has 19 victims from 11 games at the end of the league stage.