A few days ago, when India announced their 15-man squad for the T20 World Cup and Deepak Chahar was only deemed good enough for a spot as one of the three stand-by players, the pacer would’ve felt gutted. Not just because he has done well whenever called upon for India, but also because the Men In Blue seem to have selected too many spinners.
To place things into context, Chahar has accounted for 20 batters in his brief T20 international career, including a spell of 6/7 at Nagpur, which incidentally is also the best T20I bowling figures ever mustered.
Apart from that, he specializes in bowling in the Power Play – a trait that distinguishes him from the rest of the pack and portrays the special attributes at his disposal. In fact, it wouldn’t be a stretch to suggest that Chahar is probably the best white-ball exponent of the new ball in India, meaning that when he was omitted from the T20 World Cup squad, eyebrows were certainly raised.
Since then, numerous cricket pundits have shared their opinions on why the Chennai Super Kings pacer was unlucky to miss out. Chahar, though, hasn’t had a lot to say. Instead, he waited for the opening game of the resumption leg of the IPL to make the ball talk. And when that happens, it is usually a sight to behold.
Defending a middling total, CSK desperately required early scalps. At the outset, however, Quinton de Kock signaled his intentions and ripped into Josh Hazlewood. Thus, when Chahar came in to bowl the 3rd over, the pressure was firmly on the pacer. Not just because de Kock can breeze away rapidly but also because CSK didn’t have a lot of runs to play with.
As has become the case lately, Chahar set the South African up adeptly. He kept probing on a back of a length throughout his spell before bowling a full in-swinger on middle and off stump. de Kock, who was on the charge looking to manufacture shots, was taken aback and was trapped plumb in front of the stumps.
An over later, Chahar had to contend with Anmolpreet Singh – an IPL debutant but one who had dispatched Hazlewood for two fours and a six in the 4th over. This time, the speedster opted against using swing, considering that that had significantly evaporated since he had last bowled. Instead, he unfurled a knuckle ball that completely flummoxed Anmolpreet and clattered into off stump.
For any average cricket onlooker, this spell, which played a pivotal role in CSK’s success, may be construed as one where Chahar got everything right and that this wouldn’t be replicated regularly. For the CSK pacer, though, this has perhaps become the norm in recent years, thus, making his exclusion from the Indian squad even more perplexing.
Since the inception of the IPL, several world-class new-ball bowlers have plied their trade in the competition. Subsequently, Power Play wickets have also not been at a premium.
Interestingly enough, Chahar, who only made his debut in 2016 and began featuring frequently post the 2017 edition, stands eighth on the list of bowlers to have taken the most number of wickets during the field restrictions. Remarkably, only two bowlers (Chahar and Ravichandran Ashwin) have taken more than 40 wickets in this phase in less than 1000 balls.
When Ashwin is pitted against Chahar, the latter comes out on top as well, with both having scalped an equal number of wickets, but the pacer having done so in 27 fewer deliveries.
Since the start of 2019, the stats are even more skewed in Chahar’s favour. He has taken 31 wickets in the Power Play over the past three installments of the IPL. Trent Boult, who has scalped just 20 wickets, is second on that particular list.
Deepak Chahar has an enviable record in the Power Play
Even when considering all T20 matches, the CSK seamer comes out on top. In the aforementioned period, he has notched up 39 scalps, just a solitary wicket ahead of Mohammad Amir but enough to prove that there isn’t a T20 new ball bowler like Chahar anywhere on the planet.
In contrast, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah – often talked about as India’s strike bowlers in the Power Play, have fared poorly. Though neither has allowed easy runs – both have an economy rate of less than 6 since 2019, Bhuvneshwar and Bumrah have accounted for 15 and 13 batters, respectively.
Not only does that tally pale in comparison to what their CSK counterpart has put together, it also shows that they might be better suited to apply pressure, with someone like Chahar the ideal foil, considering he can pick wickets in bunches.
With India also having bowlers of the ilk of Ashwin, Rahul Chahar, Ravindra Jadeja and Varun Chakravarthy, who are capable of keeping a lid on the run-scoring, Deepak Chahar, despite his slightly higher economy rate in the Power Play (7.53) would’ve been given ample opportunities to break open the game.
Having said that, there are still a few flaws that he needs to iron out, namely his bowling at the death and his effectiveness in the middle overs, especially if he doesn’t get into his wicket-taking act at the start.
Yet, as he proved against the Mumbai Indians at Dubai, he has the habit of learning new tricks while also boasting the uncanny knack of knowing when to deploy them.
Thus, with each passing day, it seems incredible that India have decided to select Chahar as only a stand-by for the T20 World Cup. While they might’ve felt that he isn’t the finished product yet and isn’t the “complete” T20 bowler they crave, they might’ve been better served looking at the strengths he brings to the table and how those merits considerably outweigh the slight loose ends.
Perhaps India have missed a trick by not finding a place for the CSK pacer and by stacking their squad with spinners who perform a similar role. From that perspective then, Chahar is probably giving the perfect illustration of what India might be missing out come the T20 World Cup.