The Dhoni Hand in Deepak Chahar’s Rise
CSK captain MS Dhoni had personally selected Deepak Chahar in 2018, and there has been no looking back since.
The 2019 edition of the Indian Premier League threw up an MS Dhoni that fans took time getting accustomed too. He appeared ruffled, did not hesitate to walk out from the dressing room to have a stern word with the umpires and never failed to chide his players in full public glare when they erred, or in this case, overstepped.
Deepak Chahar got a piece of his skipper’s mind as he came out to bowl the penultimate over of the game between Chennai Super Kings and Kings XI Punjab. With KXIP needing 39 to win off 12, the bowler went on to concede two full-tosses above the waist that resulted in two successive free hits to the rivals. And, that is when it panned out.
The calm, composed and usually reserved Dhoni walked over, and much to the surprise of one and all, literally barked out orders and asked Chahar to “step” in the right direction. A sensational moment for the fans turned out to be an eye-opener for Chahar, who returned with a wicket off the last ball of the over he bowled.
More importantly, the swing bowler has not conceded a single No Ball in the subsequent six T20Is that he has played for India, and while that may or may not be attributed to Dhoni’s harshness on that particular night at Chepauk, there is no denying the role that the wicket-keeper batsman has played in the rise and rise of Chahar.
Dhoni’s Promise to the Youngster
Chahar’s tryst with Dhoni began in the now-defunct Rising Pune Supergiants team in 2016. Initially impressed with his ability to yield the long handle at the death overs, Dhoni promised Chahar that the latter would turn out for all 14 games that the franchise would play that year. However, an unfortunate injury saw him play just two games, in which he picked up no wicket. The following season, under the captaincy of Steven Smith, Chahar played just three games for the franchise with one scalp to show for his efforts.
In 2018, when CSK was back in the fray after a two-year ban, Chahar was personally selected in the franchise by Dhoni, and there has been no looking back since.
In the last two editions, the 27-year old has picked up 32 wickets, including 22 this year, with an impressive economy rate of less than 7. His development in the last two years, from a new ball specialist to a pacer who can be called upon at any stage has been remarkable, and though primarily a swing bowler, the increasing repertoire of variations up his sleeves has allowed him to be shortlisted as one of pacers who could be taking the flight to Australia next year for the World T20 Cup.
A Tough Career Graph to Leading the Attack
Chahar faced an early rejection in his career after Greg Chappell, the then Director of the Rajasthan Cricket Academy in 2008, did not shortlist him in the top 50 bowlers in the state. Taking the decision in his stride, Chahar vowed to come back stronger, and started work on his in-swinging deliveries. The very same year he picked up an eight-wicket haul for Rajasthan against Hyderabad, a game best known for the first innings score of 21 that the latter managed.
Though the seamer cemented his spot in the senior state side, constant injuries hampered his progress and it was not until 2018 that his career saw a gradual rise.
He starred in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy before the career-defining season for CSK, following which he was included in the India A side for the series’ against West Indies and England Lions. Chahar finally made his international debut for the Men in Blue last year as he replaced an injured Jasprit Bumrah in the side.
However, Chahar’s biggest challenge remained working on his death bowling skills if he wanted to be in it for the long haul. The lack of variations and the pace to bowl pin-point yorkers over-after-over meant that he just had natural swing to go with his medium-pace bowling. This was a major reason why Dhoni would bowl him out in one spell with the new ball regularly in 2018, but this year, Chahar returned with a number of tricks up his sleeves, which allowed the skipper to reserve him for the death as well.
However, for Team India, Chahar had not yet shown his all-round skills, with his three-wicket haul at Guyana against West Indies earlier this year a result of his immaculate control and swing with the new ball.
In fact, he had bowled 76 percent of his deliveries with the new ball for the country as well before the third T20I against Bangladesh, and he was up for the test at Nagpur where the heavy dew negated any swing. The lack of a sixth bowler also meant that Chahar would have no option but to bowl a few in the fag end of the innings as well. It was a challenge that he took head on, and got the better of with relative ease.
He executed his slower bouncers and the knuckle balls with the wet ball to perfection. Almost 50 percent of his deliveries were pitched just short of a good length and he stayed away from conceding any full length deliveries on a two-faced wicket. He got Liton Das out by extracting movement in the powerplay and then sent back Soumya Sarkar off the very next ball with a full-ish delivery. That was his only over with the new ball, with captain Rohit Sharma preferring to keep him for the last few overs. From bowling out his quota upfront to now having Sharma trust him at the death – Chahar’s rise could not have been more magnificent.
However, he had to bowl the 13th after a dangerous 98-run stand between Mohammad Mithun and Mohammad Naim threatened to take the game away from India. Yuzvendra Chahal had just gone for plenty, and Sharma entrusted Chahar to bring about some normalcy to the proceedings. That is exactly what he managed to do, as he greeted Mithun with low length cutters before he got his man with a knuckle ball away from the off stump. It spelt doom on Bangladesh’s run chase, and the hat-trick that came in the span of two overs was just a reward for the hard work that he has constantly pitched in with over the years.
(Sarah Waris is a postgraduate in English Literature has taken on the tough task of limiting the mystic world of cricket to a few hundred words.)
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