How has been Yuzvendra Chahal’s IPL journey from Royal Challengers Bangalore to Rajasthan Royals and are you excited about what lies ahead?
I am very excited. In 2010 I was with Rajasthan Royals. I was in the team but could not make it to the main team (Playing XI). After a long time I am back where I started. I am very happy and excited to be a part of the team once again. This is my first (IPL) family. You can say that I started my IPL journey from here. I am looking forward to sharing the ball with Ashwin bhaiya (R. Ashwin).
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You played for RCB between 2014 and 2021. How was your experience playing under the captaincy of Virat Kohli?
I have a close relationship with RCB, especially with the fans. I got to play a lot of matches with the team. I am emotionally attached to RCB. I never thought that I would play for any other team. People and fans on social media are still asking me ‘Why did you ask for so much money?’ The reality is that Mike Hesson (RCB’s director of cricket) called me up and said, ‘Listen Yuji, there are three retentions’ (Virat Kohli, Glenn Maxwell and Mohammad Siraj). They didn’t ask me if I wanted to retain or didn’t want to tell me if they wanted to retain me. They only talked about three retentions and I was told – we will go to the auction for you. Neither I was asked about money nor did I get any offer. But I will always be loyal to my Bangalore fans. I love them so much no matter what.
Would it be fair to say that you expected to be retained by RCB?
The thing is, he never asked me. He just called me and told me about three retentions. If he had asked me if I wanted to be in the team, I would have said yes because money is secondary to me. RCB has given me a lot. He gave me the stage. He gave me a lot of love and support. The fans showered me with a lot of affection. Yes, I am emotionally attached to RCB. That’s the most important thing for me, but now I’m with a different team.
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Will we see the same Chahal in a different jersey now?
Absolutely, you will see the same kind of wicket-taking performances and celebrations from my side. This is a new journey for me and I am very excited about it. Everything will remain the same, only the jersey will change. The way I bowled and performed for RCB, I will do the same for RR. Nothing’s going to change. RR showed faith in me in the auction. Sanju (Samson) and I have a very close relationship and we talk to each other and discuss plans. RR looks like a strong side and I am sure we will win the title this time.
How would you rate Rajasthan Royals’ title prospects this time around?
RR is the strongest team on paper. We have strong openers Sanju (Samson), Yashasvi (Jaiswal), Devdutt (Padikkal). We also have a strong middle order with Shimron Hetmyer, Riyan Parag, Karun Nair. We have amazing all-rounders and bowlers like James Neesham, Nathan Coulter-Nile, R Ashwin and of course me. The team looks strong. In the batting, fast bowling, keeping and spin departments, RR is a good player in all departments.
Did you talk to Virat Kohli after he was bought by Rajasthan Royals in the auction?
not much. He (Virat Kohli) congratulated me and said ‘Royal to hai hi tu’. I learned a lot under his guidance and played a lot of cricket under his leadership. He gave me a lot of freedom on the field, be it for RCB or India. Virat Kohli is no longer the captain of the Indian cricket team.
The team has a new captain in Rohit Sharma. What kind of experience do you have with Rohit?
I call her Rohita. The relationship with Rohit Bhaiya is also similar. He is still the same. He is a fun-loving captain. He supports and encourages the youth a lot. He always says ‘you know what to do, go now’. He gives you that freedom. I have played a few tournaments and series under his leadership. I didn’t see any change in that. I can blindly trust Rohit bhai.
How would you say that the role of Virat Kohli in the Indian team has changed? Does he still have a leadership role to play along with Rohit?
There is a good bonding between Virat Bhaiya and Rohit Bhaiya. Looking at the West Indies series, Virat Bhaiya and Rohit Bhaiya discussed things on the field. He came forward to make suggestions and discussed the plans with Rohit Bhaiya. They are both legends of the game and have a lot of experience. You can still contact Virat Bhaiya for help or any suggestion, he is still there and ready to help.
How do you see coach Rahul Dravid’s Indian dressing room?
I have played under Rahul sir when he was the coach of India A team. I played a few tournaments under his leadership. I share a good bond with him. The best part is that you can contact them anytime. Rahul sir has solution for every problem. I still remember during the Sri Lanka series, Rahul sir came to my room and said – ‘UG, we are giving more people a chance’. It was a big deal when the head coach was coming up to you and saying this. He keeps the dressing room so positive. He keeps players on the same page. There is no communication gap. There is clear communication. He doesn’t treat Rohit bhaiya differently and other players differently than Virat bhaiyya. For him all are the same. Actually, a net bowler is also the same for him. What would you say is the biggest difference in the Indian dressing room under Rahul Dravid compared to Ravi Shastri? Everyone has a different style of coaching and captaining the team. Ravi sir was different from Rahul sir. The team bonding is still the same. Right now our main focus is on the World Cup (T20 World Cup this year, ODI World Cup in 2023). I have set some goals and I want to achieve them.
How happy were you personally to see the KUL-CHA (Kuldeep and Chahal) pair playing together again in Indian cricket?
I am very happy. Kuldeep is like my younger brother. We have a very good relationship both on and off the field. He was coming back from injuries and was desperate to leave. I missed him on the field. After a long time when he fell on the ground, I hugged him. I want to share the ball with him and take as many wickets as possible with him. Kulcha will dominate again.