Piyush Chawla has been an integral member of KKR camp and has played a key role in their IPL triumph in 2014. The 29-year-old was retained by the Kolkata Knight Riders through RTM card in January 2018.
In the ongoing Indian Premier League, Chawla is currently the second highest wicket-taker for KKR with 8 scalps from 9 matches. With Kolkata looking all set to qualify for another play-offs, Piyush recently opened about his journey with the Shah Rukh Khan-owned franchise and a lot more.
“It’s been five years with KKR, and the overall experience has been very good. When I joined KKR in 2014, we won the Championship and thereafter on most of the occasions, we qualified for the playoffs. When you are winning as a team, that experience automatically becomes sweet,” Chawla quoted in an exclusive with Firstpost.
Over the years, KKR have always had quality spinners in their team. Earlier, it was Brad Hogg and now Sunil Narine and Kuldeep Yadav. Talking about his experience of bowling alongside these spinners, Piyush said: “Three of us (himself, Sunil Narine and Brad Hogg) are all different types of bowlers. Sunil is an off-spinner, Hogg, obviously is a wrist-spinner. We had good chats among ourselves. You keep learning something new whenever you interact with people.
“Watching Brad Hogg prepare for matches was a big help and a good learning experience. The best thing about him is the energy he shows even at this age. Till last to last year (2016) he was playing, and the kind of energy he shows on the field, it really motivates us as players. Looking at him, you feel he is a 19-year-old. Kuldeep has done really well too. He has done well for us as well as for India. When he came to the scene, we played for the same state — Uttar Pradesh — and that's when I noticed him first. There are certain players who you look at and realise there is something special about them. Kuldeep is one such player,” he explained.
When asked about the influence of Anil Kumble in his career, the Uttar Pradesh leggie said: “I was 17 years old then; a school-going boy. I used to watch all of them on TV, and all of a sudden I did well in Ranji Trophy and got a national call-up. I obviously learnt a lot from Anil bhai. You can learn a lot from him, from the way he prepares for a match, his work ethic is superb, and his discipline towards the game is amazing. The amount of experience he has got at the highest level is phenomenal, and I did learn a lot from him.”
As a teenager, Chawla had grabbed the headlines by dismissing the legendary Sachin Tendulkar in his maiden Challenger Trophy final in 2005. Recalling that experience, he said: “That experience was really good. To be honest, there was no pressure on me back then. I was just 16, and Sachin paaji was someone who had been playing cricket for 16-17 years. So there was no pressure on me as such.”
“In that situation, I had nothing to lose. I was bowling to Sachin paaji, and he had banged the best bowlers around the world. My mindset was, yaar sabko maara hai. Glenn McGrath, Shane Warne, Brett Lee, sabko to maara hai, so mujhe bhi peet diya to kya farak padta hai (He has hit everyone, so even if he hits me, what difference will it make)? But if I get him out, it will be the news, and that’s what happened,” he elaborated.
Over the past couple of years, leg-spinners have once again come back in trend. Teams are fielding them in all formats. Given the fact that Team India don’t have a back-up to Yuzvendra Chahal as of now, Chawla could certainly think of the national comeback.
“As you said, wrist-spinners are in demand. In the last couple of years, people have realised that cricket has become so fast that in order to win games, you have to pick wickets, otherwise even 350-360 runs in a one-day game is not safe. So, wrist spin is something that will give you the option of picking wickets even on a flat surface, because they (wrist spinners) have more variations and they get more turn,” Piyush Chawla reasoned.
“About the India comeback, obviously I am not in the squad for four-five years now, so my Ranji Trophy form becomes crucial. This domestic season, I took 50-odd wickets across formats. The way I am bowling in the IPL this year, you never know. I can still fancy my chances. It’s not that I have crossed my age or something, I am still 29, so it’s alright. There’s always a chance and I am definitely hopeful,” he concluded.