The best ever bowling figures in men's T20Is, first Indian male cricketer to take a T20I hat-trick, the arrival of a new white-ball sensation in Indian cricket – there are many ways one can remember Deepak Chahar’s exploits of 6/7 against Bangladesh in Nagpur. However, on a larger perspective, it will be ideal to say that on Sunday night (10 November ) the 27-year old finally graduated as a complete T20 bowler. Chahar, who has been stereotyped as a new-ball specialist in the limited-over formats for the major part of his career, eventually showed his multidimensional skills with the older Kookaburra to drag India out of a hole in the series-decider at Jamtha.
With the way power-hitting is evolving in modern-day T20 cricket, a medium-fast bowler needs to possess multiple traits to survive in this format. But with his lack of pace, Chahar’s utility in the death overs was always under the scanner before Sunday. In fact, prior to this particular three-match series against Bangladesh, captains (primarily MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli) utilised majority of his overs in the powerplay in both blue and yellow jerseys. And to his credit, the Rajasthan cricketer thrived in that role.
Perhaps, things would have remained the same for Chahar for a while if Khaleel Ahmed wasn’t hit for four consecutive boundaries in the 19th over of Bangladesh’s run-chase at Kotla. Under pressure, that poor execution by the left-arm pacer forced Rohit Sharma, the stand-in skipper for this series, to put Chahar in the line of fire in the next game and it turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
At Rajkot, he bowled two out of the last five overs on a flat deck, gave away only 15 runs and got the priced wicket of Mahmudullah with a slow bouncer.
That particular spell convinced the think-tank to stretch the experiment a bit further, as in the series-decider, the skipper trusted him to bowl three overs with the wet ball. Someone who is regarded for his accuracy and ability to swing the new ball both ways was seen executing his cutters, slower bouncers, knuckle balls and yorkers with near perfection to polish off Bangladesh’s lower-order in a hurry.
Bowling variations in death overs is Chahar’s secondary skill and with his kind of pace, one needs a big heart to take on the challenge with a cheeky smile on the face, especially when the series is on the line. But for someone who is habituated to bowl with only two fielders outside the circle, having five in the boundary is a ‘luxury’.
Yes, that is the attitude and thought process of this ever-smiling cricketer.
"Earlier I used to bowl out with the new ball, and people used to ask me why I don't bowl at the death," Chahar said in a recent media interaction. "I used to say death is easier to bowl. My brain had become so used to bowling with two fielders outside the circle that five seemed a luxury. If you have variations, you can use them at the death."
Chahar always knew that someday, he had to get out of his comfort zone of bowling in the powerplay and toil in the merciless final overs. Mentally, he was all geared up to face the inevitable. And he had his gameplan ready as well.
"I believe you can't afford to be predictable at the death," Chahar said in that same press conference at Mohali, which took place following his fruitful outing against South Africa in a T20I. "If the batsman knows you will bowl only the yorker or normal slower one, then he can line you up. You have to have a slower bouncer, a knuckle ball, a slower ball, a yorker… If you have all that, the batsman is a little watchful. If you miss the length by a lot, then there is a chance you will get hit for a four or a six, but if you keep executing or miss it by a little bit, you can escape punishment."
And on Sunday, Chahar executed his gameplan impeccably. Even with dew and ball skidding on the surface, batsmen found it hard to line him up for a big shot, courtesy to his unpredictable lengths and change of pace. Furthermore, despite the ball being significantly wet, he showed tremendous control and did not bowl a single full-toss to allow the already under-pressure batters any sort of freebie.
So far, Chahar has made all the right moves towards confirming his seat in the Australia-bound flight for next year’s T20 World Cup. But prior to that, the audition will continue in home and abroad and with stiff competition for spots in this Indian team, no one barring Jasprit Bumrah (if he is fit) can take his place for granted in this bowling department.
Also, let’s not forget that Chahar is probably fighting for the spot of Bhuvneshwar Kumar in the T20 World Cup squad.
Hence, he knows that the best way to be in the scheme of things is to perform in whatever opportunity comes his way. And for that he has a very simple theory – "I take every match as my last.”
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