Team India leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal has admitted that he was and continues to remain in awe of former India captain MS Dhoni. He candidly conceded that Dhoni is the only person in front of whom he finds himself tongue-tied.
Chahal and left-arm wrist-spinner Kuldeep Yadav have often credited the role of Dhoni behind the stumps in their success at the international level. Both spinners lost their place in the team after Dhoni retired from international cricket before subsequently making a strong comeback.
In an interview on Ranveer Allahbadia’s YouTube channel, Chahal opened up on his admiration for Dhoni.
“He is only person, unke saamne aate hai meri bolti bandh ho jaati hai [I am tongue-tied in front of him]. I don’t speak a lot irrespective of the kind of mood I am in. I just sit still and reply only if Mahi bhai asks something. Otherwise, I just keep quiet,” he said.
On what kind of chat Dhoni has with players, the leg-spinner replied that one can speak on anything with him. Praising the legend, he recalled an incident when the keeper-batter encouraged him even when he was going for plenty of runs in a T20I.
“We were playing a T20 match against South Africa in Centurion. For the first time, I was hit for 64 runs in four overs. [Heinrich] Klaasen was hammering me, so he asked me whether I would bowl round the wicket. I said okay, but then Klaasen hit me for a six,” the 32-year-old added.
Continuing the story, Chahal added that Dhoni taught him an important lesson.
“I was walking back when Mahi bhai came to me and told me, ‘aaj tere din nahi hai, koi baat nahi’ [Today is not your day, it’s okay]. But he told me that the five balls that I have left, I should try and not concede a boundary on those as that will help the team. From that experience, I realized that even if you have an off day, you can still support the team,” he said.
Chahal went wicketless in the match as Heinrich Klaasen hammered 69 off 30 in South Africa’s chase of 189.
“I blindly trusted him” – Chahal on his equation with Dhoni
Elaborating on his on-field equation with Dhoni, Chahal said that he blindly trusted the legendary cricketer and mostly followed the advice that he was given. He even admitted tasting plenty of success because of the same.
“I blindly trusted him. If he used to tell me something, I used to follow it. Ninety-five percent, I used to follow what he said and five percent, I used to tell him about my side. When we used to come on to bowl, it was after the 10th over, he used to know what is happening on the wicket and how the surface is going to play,” he said.
Chahal added that there were many instances when Dhoni told him to just bowl at the stumps and not try anything different and got wickets immediately.
“I got a wicket in that over or the next one. That blind trust is very important. I am also his fan. He made 50 percent of my life as a bowler easier. Otherwise, you come in and send down a couple of overs judging the pace of the wicket. He used to tell us in advance and we used to start attacking from the first over. From me, it was like if Mahi Bhai has said this, then that’s it.”
Chahal has played 72 ODIs and 75 T20Is for India, claiming 121 and 91 wickets respectively.