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‘I’ve learnt to predict batters’

Updated on: 25 May,2022 07:26 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Harit Joshi | harit.joshi@mid-day.com

RR leggie Chahal reveals secret of his emergence as highest wicket-taker in IPL-15 so far with 26 scalps

‘I’ve learnt to predict batters’

Yuzvendra Chahal

Yuzvendra Chahal is on course to becoming the highest wicket-taker for the first time in the IPL. Holding the Purple Cap with 26 wickets from 14 matches in the IPL-15, the Rajasthan Royals leggie’s only competition is second-placed Royal Challengers Bangalore leg-spinner Wanindu Hasaranga (24 wickets). 
Chahal, along with veteran offie R Ashwin, has taken RR to the playoffs for the first time since 2018, having finished in the Top-2 with 18 points. The last time they finished in the Top-2, RR went on to win the title—2008. 

In an interview with mid-day, Chahal opened up about topping the wickets chart, his preparation before the IPL, his unique celebration and how his non-selection for the 2021 T20 World Cup spurred him on.  

Edited excerpts from an interview. 

How does it feel to wear the Purple Cap?
It’s something very special. I took many wickets before, but this time it was different. The franchise was new and the pitches were repetitive. To perform like this in these conditions makes me very proud of myself.

Can you tell us about your preparation ahead of the IPL? 
I was preparing with a new team this time. The coaches are very good and helped me gain new perspectives. When you practise with Lasith Malinga [RR’s bowling coach], you always learn. I learnt to predict a batter’s mentality more accurately and 
that has helped us in tough times through this tournament.

You have varied your pace smartly apart from your variations. Could you tell us a bit more about this aspect of your bowling?
Varying pace is one of the most powerful weapons a bowler can have. A slight variation can transform a six to an easy catch. It all depends on how much you can judge the batter. If he is playing defensively, a faster ball can get you a breakthrough. Similarly, when he is in an attacking mode, a slower ball can be useful. 

Did the setback of the T20 World Cup spur you on? 
Yes, not being selected was upsetting. But in a way, it motivated me to perform better. As a professional cricketer, what I can do is be in my best form whenever my country needs me. I believe I am progressing on this path. 

Critics had almost written you off. How did you cope with that phase?
It doesn’t bother me what critics are saying. The only thing I care about is how I am going to  perform in my next match. Once you are confident about your next game, you can cope with any adverse situation.

How heartening is it to see Kuldeep Yadav among the Top-5 wicket-takers?
It is good to see him perform at this level and terrifying batsmen again. I feel very happy for him and look forward to serving our country together with him again.

Can you tell us about your unique celebration?
My fans have turned a simple pose [sitting on the ground in a relaxed manner, legs crossed] into a viral trend. I used it as my signature celebration to dedicate my success to my fans and the people who have always believed in me.

Your favourite memory of playing gully cricket and how you see this association with Moj’s initiative?
In my childhood, I used to play chess regularly. So, I used to experiment with some of my chess tactics on the cricket field. I remember one gully cricket match where hitting a sixer was considered out. My team was chasing a total and I was bowling the first over. I was instructed not to bowl on the leg side since that was the batsman’s favourite zone. But just like people sacrifice the queen in chess with the hope of a positive outcome later, I bowled a full toss on the leg side. The batter could not resist, hit it for a six and got out. It was an exciting yet hilarious moment, but my gamble paid off. Gully cricket is our soul and a part of culture. It gives rise to dreams and dreams when achieved, makes legends. What Moj is doing for the promotion of gully cricketers in India is amazing. It will definitely help nurture some young talent.

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