Junior chess champ Chahal now a Man In Blue

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Old 01-Jun-2016
Junior chess champ Chahal now a Man In Blue

When he was a teenager, he used to plan the downfall of his opposition on 64 squares. Now as a leg-spinner, he plots the dismissal of batsmen from around the world in the Indian Premier League (IPL).

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.

"Chess helps me plot the opposition batsman's dismissal. I try to be one step ahead of the batsman, especially in T20 cricket where the bowler has to think on his feet," the 25-year-old Chahal told TOI. "Then when the batsman is going hard, I try to remain calm. My chess training helps me in staying focused on the job in hand," he added.

Chahal, selected for the Indian cricket team's tour of Zimbabwe, is still listed on FIDE's (World Chess Federation) official site and once had a FIDE rating of 1946. Since the age of seven, chess and cricket were equally dear to Chahal. Gradually, he started doing well in age-group chess tournaments and his entire focus was on making it big on the chessboard. 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 when he failed to find sponsors. "To progress in chess, he needed about Rs. 50 lakh a year. But we could not find sponsors. So, he had to abandon the game. He does play it as a hobby these days," said his father K K Chahal, an advocate.

On the cricket pitch, Chahal first got noticed when he took two for nine in three overs during the Champions League Twenty20 final against Royal Challengers Bangalore, which helped Mumbai Indians lift the title in 2011. That performance helped him get a contract with Royal Challengers.

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 sticks from 11 games after the league stage.

Chahal will hope that his franchise form translates for the Men in Blue and he manages to leave a larger imprint by the end of the Zimbabwe tour.

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