Is Deepak Chahar the new Bhuvneshwar Kumar?
We witnessed Deepak Chahar and Bhuvneshwar Kumar playing together for the first time during the 3rd T20I between the West Indies and India. And ironically, Chahar reminded us of the Bhuvneshwar Kumar of 2012 despite Bhuvneshwar himself bowling in tandem.
When Bhuvneshwar had burst on to the scene for India in December 2012, he had the batsmen caught in his web of swing coupled with control. He made his debut against Pakistan and registered figures of 4-0-9-3, and followed it up with 4-0-46-1.
Quite eerily, Chahar's figures have been pretty much the same in his first two T20Is as well. Chahar made his debut in England with figures of 4-0-43-1 and played his second game against the West Indies recently to end with figures of 3-1-4-3.
More importantly, it is Chahar's ability to swing the ball prodigiously with control that makes the comparisons with Bhuvneshwar so irresistible. Chahar's pace is generally in the low 130s, which is a very suitable pace for swing bowling. It's the exact pace at which Bhuvneshwar Kumar used to bowl at.
Whether Chahar can continue to trouble the batsmen remains a question the answer to which we will find only after he gets regular opportunities. But if his IPL heroics are anything to go by, then India certainly has a star for the future.
He has managed to consistently swing the ball in Chennai over the last two seasons. That is not an easy thing to do, considering that the pitches in Chennai are generally dry.
Has Bhuvneshwar Kumar lost his old self?
Bhuvneshwar's pace used to be anywhere between 126 km/h to 134 km/h at the start of his career. But then he went through a dip in form which naturally attracted a lot of criticism. This criticism mainly focused on his lack of pace.
That was the start of a problem which seems to have stalled his career. He started focusing on his pace and he succeeded. But to an extent he lost his main forte - swing.
Another thing that added to his woes was his growing responsibility to bowl at the death for Sunrisers Hyderabad in the IPL. This made him develop variations, which sounds good in theory, but it wasn't his modus operandi.
Bhuvneshwar was the leading wicket-taker in the IPL 2016 and 2017, but that may have taken too much out of him. Increase in pace, added variations, bowling at the death - it was easy for the swing bowler to get lost amid all these newfound aspects.
Bhuvneshwar's bowling average of 21.30 in 2016 and 14.19 in 2017, quickly became 39.33 in 2018 and 35.46 in 2019. This also started impacting his ODI performances.
Of late, Bhuvneshwar has started bowling again at his usual pace, but it doesn't work as effectively as earlier because there are variations involved. While his decline seems to have started, Chahar is rising.
It should not be long before Chahar replaces Bhuvneshwar in all the formats of the game, provided he doesn't fall into the same pace trap.
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