Patience, key to Chahal's success

Patience, key to Chahal's success

Yuzvendra Chahal left playing chess 16 years ago but the calculated moves are ingrained in him. It’s just that he now uses the 22-yard cricket pitch as his board to trick his opponents -- it could be a particular delivery to some batsman, a specific area or a certain stage of the game. Chahal plays mind games with batsmen. Of all the tricks that he has acquired playing chess, the leg-spinner emphasises on the virtue of patience.

For someone who only plays limited-over cricket for the country, this may sound a bit ironic because there is not much time to comeback unlike in the longer version, but by patience Chahal means sticking to his plans and trusting his ability even when things aren’t going his way. His numbers vouch for his claim. In 42 ODIs since his debut in 2016 against Zimbabwe in Harare, the leg-spinner has taken 76 wickets at an impressive average of 23.98 and an economy rate of 4.89.

“Chess I left almost 16 years ago, but still the patience that I've got has come from chess,” pointed out Chahal who dismissed Hendrick van der Dussen and Faf du Plessis in the same over. “Because in chess too you have to think 10-15 moves ahead and especially when you bowl to a batsman like Faf, if you bowl even slightly loose ball, it goes for a six. So, to those batsmen, you have to bowl your best balls. When to bowl the variations, when to bowl a googly, when to bowl a flipper...that I give some thought about if the batsman is picking it or not,” he analysed.

Along with fellow wrist-spinner Kuldeep Yadav, the Haryana bowler has become an indispensable part of India’s limited-over set up, displacing off-spinner R Ashwin from the squad altogether and pushing left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja down the pecking order. Despite Jadeja’s outstanding show in the two warm-up matches, Virat Kohli picked the two wrist spinners for India’s opening match against South Africa on Wednesday and the duo justified the faith reposed in him with a brilliant display of spin bowling. Chahal, in particular, was a standout performer with his variations and choice of deliveries. He changed the pace, got the drift and extracted just enough turn off the pitch to leave the batsmen clueless. His four-wicket haul (4/51) that gave little recovery time for South Africa was as crucial as man of the match Rohit Sharma’s unbeaten 122.

Chahal, who came into the national limelight playing for Royal Challengers Bangalore in IPL under Kohli, enjoys the Indian skippers’ confidence and respect and that has had a positive impact on his performance.

“I think Kuldeep bowled really well, he controlled the game from one end, and I think Chahal was outstanding,” said Kohli of Chahal’s bowling. “The way he mixed his pace, the ball wasn't turning so much, but even with a little bit of turn and help from the pitch what he was able to bring out of the wicket was truly brilliant to see. And breaking that crucial partnership and picking two wickets in an over was, I think, a game-changing moment for us, so both of them were brilliant in the middle overs,” he explained.

Not unlike fast bowlers, both Chahal and Kuldeep have been hunting in pairs ever since they played together on the tour of Sri Lanka in 2017. They have a great understanding of each other’s bowling and trust each other that has helped them reap rich rewards. On Wednesday, Kohli introduced Kuldeep first into attack and his inputs played a key role in Chahal bagging 4/51.

“I bowled first three overs and I spoke to Chahal, ‘the wicket is good but if you bowl slower, you will get turn.’ So, we worked on that and planned according to the wicket. Yeah, our main focus was to take wickets in the middle overs. We did well in that aspect,” said Kuldeep and Chahal corroborated it.

While Kuldeep has also broken into the Test squad too, the left-arm wrist spinner acknowledges Chahal’s superiority when it comes to white ball cricket. “Of course, he is more experienced than me. He knows which one to bowl where, he is very good in that. I need to learn that thing from him. Maybe in a few years’ time I will get there,” complimented Kuldeep without an iota of grudge.

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