Deepak Chahar is a natural swing bowler and at his best when given the new ball. Few can dispute this after his spells in the Indian T20 League, where he would mostly bowl 3-4 overs upfront in the powerplay overs and be done with it.
So, when Rohit Sharma kept him back for the death overs despite Chahar taking two wickets in his only over in the powerplay against Bangladesh at Nagpur in the final T20I, we questioned the thinking for a brief while. But the Rajasthan seamer returned in the death overs with a slew of cutters, slower balls, knuckle balls and yorkers to run through Bangladesh's lower order and give India a resounding series win. In the process, Chahar racked up the best ever haul in a T20I game (6/7) coupled with a hat-trick.
Only two other bowlers have taken six wickets in International T20s before Chahar. Ajantha Mendis (twice) and Yuzvendra Chahal are the others. Chahar went past Mendis' record of 6/8 against Zimbabwe when he claimed the same number of wickets for one run lesser.
In all T20s, there are only three better bowling figures than Chahar's now. Due credit has to go to Rohit Sharma for keeping Chahar for the death overs, after acknowledging that Khaleel wasn't doing a fine job then.
However, Rohit's idea might have stemmed from the Indian T20 League where MS Dhoni groomed Chahar into a bowler who can bowl in all phases of an innings. It was Dhoni himself who made Chahar a powerplay bowler at the Chennai franchise, a move that several other captains including Virat Kohli replicated when playing Chahar. But in the 2019 edition, Dhoni forced Chahar out of his comfort zone. In a game against Punjab, Dhoni gave Chahar the penultimate over and the moment he conceded two successive no-balls and free hits, Dhoni walked up to the bowler and gave him a piece of his mind. Chahar returned with a wicket off the last ball of the over.
What's even more stunning is that since that day, Chahar hasn't bowled a single no-ball in the six T20Is he has played for India. Dhoni's camaraderie with Chahar dates back to 2016 when he was impressed by Chahar at the now-defunct Pune franchise. Dhoni promised Chahar all 14 games in that season for Pune but unfortunately, after two matches, Chahar got injured.
Steven Smith then took over the captaincy of Pune next season and Chahar played sparingly. In the last two editions of the league, Dhoni has groomed Chahar into a superb T20 bowler. The seamer has 32 wickets in the last two seasons at an exciting economy of less than 7.
Deepak Chahar’s increasing repertoire of variations makes him an enticing option for India as they zero in on their 2020 T20 World Cup players.
Feature image courtesy: AFP / Noah Seelam