On-field, his face reveals an intensity with intent, off it, he is a 23-year-old prankster with a mischievous twinkle in the eye which is hard to miss. Meet Yuzvendra Chahal, a small- town boy with king-size ambitions. But beyond all the pranks and banter which his Royal Challengers Bangalore team-mates are used to, is a boy who made a seamless transition from life on the 64 squares to the 22 yards.
Growing up, the son of an advocate in the Jind district of Haryana, the lanky youngster was focused on making it big in chess.
Talking about his passion for the mind game, Chahal said, “I was crowned the under-12 champion in the 2002 national children’s chess championship and that fuelled my chess ambition. The next year I represented India at the Asian Youth Chess Championship and was placed in the top 20. I then went on to represent the country at the World Youth Chess Championship in Greece, where I didn’t do well.”
With a clutch of medals at the national level and exposure on the international stage, Chahal sought to boost his fledgling chess career, in the form of sponsorship, but there weren’t many takers.
Chahal fine-tuned his skills by playing and learning with the aid of a computer, but unable to find a sponsor, his chess career was nipped in the bud by 2003.
“All along, I played both sports, chess and cricket, and I chose cricket over chess in 2003,” said the jovial lad who played his first chess nationals in Ahmedabad.
He believes the time spent with the chess board has kept him in good stead on the cricket pitch too.
“Chess is all about mind games and, believe me, it has helped me in cricket too. There are a lot of lessons I have taken from chess into cricket. My willpower is stronger and that keeps me going, especially when I don’t get wickets or I go for extra runs. In times of frustration, my chess training helps me keep calm too.”
Away from sport, he is a simple boy. “I’m based out of Delhi, so when I’m free, I love going on long drives with my friends and also like partying,” he says.
A self-confessed prankster, when asked to describe himself, says, “I’m a funny guy who likes to keep the atmosphere around me light. I’m a total child at heart, always up to mischief.”
Chahal, whose father K.K. Chahal played cricket at the university level, made his Indian Premier League debut for the Mumbai Indians before being snapped up by RCB this season.
“I really enjoyed myself with senior players like Virat bhaiyya and Yuvi paaji who have supported me on and off the field,” he says about his new stint.
An avid movie buff, Chahal’s dream date is Katrina Kaif. “I like Katrina a lot, her smile appeals the most to me.”
He considers the wicket of Delhi Daredevils skipper Kevin Pietersen as the prized one and is also a Real Madrid fan, with Cristiano Ronaldo being his top pick among footballers.
The diminutive bowler whose reflexes and commitment on the boundary line has won him accolades, is also child-like in his mannerisms, which is quite endearing. But it’s hard not to miss his burning passion for the sport, as he prepares to knock on the doors of the Indian team.