“We’re very excited for his first World Cup. For any sportsperson playing any sport, even the experience of participating in the top level of the game – be it Olympics or in cricket, World Cup – is an aim.”
That was the proud father of Indian cricketer Yuzvendra Chahal just before India kicked off their ICC World Cup campaign against South Africa on 5 June. The Quint spoke to KK Chahal before he left for England to watch his son play his first Cricket World Cup.
“We’re going on 30 June for India vs England match, and will stay on till the final.”
My next question was the obvious – “So are you confident India will reach the final?”
“Yes, we are confident. But the rest depends on God and on those who are playing.”
And before he left for the country with iconic stadiums and now specially-prepared flat tracks, Yuzvendra’s father had a special message for him.
I’ve told him, “When you’re on the ground, give not your 100 percent but 200 percent. Reaching the international level is not as hard as maintaining yourself there. There’s a lot of competition, so he’ll have to work really hard.”
Now moving away from the World Cup – and many know that Yuzvendra was once a junior national chess champion – his father shared with us how the Haryana boy first started playing the game, and why.
“I was behind Yuzvendra playing chess. When he was six or seven years old, there was only so long I could have kept him in the house and saved him from the outside society. I had played some chess during my university days and thought if he develops an interest in the game, he will be saved from roaming around. That’s why I introduced him to chess, and in just 20-25 he starting beating me in it.”
“After that we started enrolling him in local competitions where he started topping. He did well in the state tournaments too and then starting competing at the national level. Then on 31 December 2002, he became India champion,” said Yuzvendra’s father.
But chess, Yuzvendra played for his father and cricket he played for himself. And so when it came down to choosing between the two, Chahal picked the game he truly enjoyed. And the rest as they say, is history…
“He started chess later. He was just about 5 years old when he started going to the cricket ground. The children who used to play in the district used to take him for practice at 5 am in the morning, and on Sundays used to take him for cross-country. And if he got tired on the way back, they used to put him on their shoulders and bring him. Those children too have a big role to play in Yuzvendra’s then increasing interest in cricket.”
“But when Yuzvendra didn’t get sponsorship, he had to pick one of the two games, and I had given him the freedom to pick either. So then he told me I won’t play chess, I’ll play cricket.”
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