The two spinners, known as Kulcha Jodi, credit M.S. Dhoni for their evolution at the international level and say they miss him behind the wickets and personally want him to play for India again. Excerpts.
Q: Kanpur is known for “Thagu ke Laddu” and since you’re from Kanpur, is the city now known by your name?
A. Kuldeep Yadav: Kanpur will always be known by “Thagu ke Laddu”, that’s the real identity of Kanpur. I have grown up eating those and it feels good when your city is known by you. I worked hard and by the grace of god…
Q: How are you spending time in lockdown?
A. Yuzvendra Chahal: I do my workout regimen from Monday-Saturday at 6:30 am, take a nap in the afternoon and spend time with the family. We understand the situation right now and that’s why we are focusing on fitness because we know if we are fit, we can get the rhythm in bowling quickly in nets.
Q: What was your experience helping for corona warriors?
A. Kuldeep Yadav: Through charities, I helped some 25,000 people by supplying ration to their homes and this is the time where people in need should be helped. I have joined an NGO and from that platform, I am trying to do as best as I can.
Q: Please share your views on the changes that will be forced in the game due to coronavirus?
A. Yuzvendra Chahal: It’s not in our hands but it will be very difficult to stop doing things which we have been doing since childhood. As a spinner, we need shine on one side of the ball, we use that to drift the cricket ball. But if things are banned, we have to live with it.
Q: What’s your take on a match without spectators?
A. Kuldeep Yadav: Without spectators, it’ll be difficult to play in an empty ground. It will be just like playing a domestic game in another state. This thing will be new for us. If we want to restart the game, we have to follow the restrictions.
Q: How difficult will it be playing for T20 World Cup after this long break?
A. Yuzvendra Chahal: It’ll be difficult for all teams to play for T20 World Cup. We need at least some domestic matches or a good T20 tournament to prepare for the big event. But we also understand the situation. That’s why I am going through my old match video and analysing my performance by watching old bowling spells.
Q: How do you see this scheduled Test series against Australia there?
A. Aussie coach Justin Langer has challenged India this time. A. Yuzvendra Chahal: We are focusing only on winning this series and our strength is our bowlers. It doesn’t matter where we are playing. This team has one goal, go and give your 100 percent to win. We don’t have a result in our hands but we all can do is give our best.
Q: What’s your take on bowling out Babar Azam in WC19? It was called the ball of the decade by experts.
A. Kuldeep Yadav: I and Chahal were bowling in good flow, that’s how we created pressure on the rival and successfully got the wicket. On that day, I was in good shape and was getting good drift. The ball goes away in the air and came back sharply to take Babar Azam’s middle stump.
Q: What’s the story behind Dhoni calling you “Tilli”?
A. Yuzvendra Chahal: Looking at my physique, Dhoni started calling me “Tilli” (stick). Actually, he had 3-4 different nick names for me.
Q: Are you missing Dhoni behind the wickets?
A. Kuldeep Yadav: I am, of course, missing Dhoni. Whenever you play with a senior player, you become fond of them and start missing them and their presence. As far as his retirement is concerned, it is Dhoni’s decision and it should be left to him. There is no point for us to debate on that. He is very fit and I personally feel he should play for India. As a fan, I absolutely love him. If he plays, it would be easier for us.
Q: What are your memories with Dhoni?
A. Kuldeep Yadav: I am the biggest fan of Dhoni. He used to call me various names from behind the stumps and I used to like it. Nobody knows Mahi bhai gives different nick names to every player.
Q: What makes you and Kuldeep strong when you bowl together?
A. Yuzvendra Chahal: This began from IPL when we were playing for Mumbai Indians, that’s when we started bonding and trusting each other. Actually, it’s all about the mindset and how you understand your partner who is bowling from the other end. Sometimes the pitch suits me so I go in for the attack and Chahal bowls tightly and vice-versa.
Q: Are fast bowlers’ good performance the reason for you two not playing together regularly over the last 6-8 months?
A. Kuldeep Yadav: The team combination and winning are more important. And there is no doubt that our bowling attack is the best in the business and it’s very difficult to find a place in the playing eleven often these days.
Q: You’re now a social media star, what do you think about it?
A. Yuzvendra Chahal: It’s a good platform to interact with your fans and I like being active in social media. I enjoy interacting with people and I have a very simple theory in life: Do what you want to do, no matter what you are doing, playing chess or cricket or acting on social media.