Yuzvendra Chahal: From a Challenger to a Wizard
- The exceptional transformation of leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal from an ordinary player for RCB to becoming an Indian team wizard.
The state “Haryana” and the word “hurricane” in the context of Indian cricket has always been known for the swashbuckling all-rounder and former captain, Kapil Dev. The state, since then has been known for their bowlers such as Joginder Sharma and Mohit Sharma.
But, lately, there has been a switch from the fast bowlers to spinners in the Haryana state team with players like Amit Mishra, Jayant Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal making it count at the biggest stage. This switch has also allowed the Haryana's spinners to make it big at the national level.
But it is the Indian Premier League that has given rise to players like Jasprit Bumrah and Hardik Pandya, unlike the conventional first-class route. Chahal, who is also a product of the Indian Premier League, performed superbly for the national team in the recently concluded T20I series against England.
The Indian spin sensation made the English batsmen dance to the tune of his deliveries which varied from googlies, flippers and the traditional leg-break. The variations helped him to achieve the third best figures by a bowler in T20 Internationals.
Chahal was born in the Jind district of Haryana on 23 July 1990. He made his senior debut for his state on the 3rd of November in the year 2009 against Madhya Pradesh, where he ended the match with an economy of 3.06. Opportunities seem to be thin and limited for the leg spinner in the presence of his fellow spinner, Amit Mishra, who is also the captain of the Ranji team.
The 26-year-old had a series of Ranji matches under his cap in the absence of his captain, who was representing the national team. He also had to operate in the shadows of his state captain.
A seaming home pitch
The Haryana-born leg-spinner, who plays his first-class cricket at Lahli had to be content with the little spin he got from the pitch. The pitch at Lahli is known to be conducive to swing bowlers and also offers steady bounce. It is considered to be a fast bowler’s heaven and a batsman’s graveyard.
The recognition that the spinners get out of their performance at Lahli is minimal compared to the recognition that the Tamil Nadu cricket team spinners get for their performance at the Chepauk. It is only the leggie's relentless approach and steady hard work that paid him dividends.
Limited overs success
Chahal made use of the limited overs format in improving his game to stand a chance to get selected by an Indian Premier League franchise. The leg-spinner was signed in the year 2011 by the Mumbai Indians. The Haryana-born spinner was sidetracked by the franchise in the IPL but got his chance in that year’s Champions League, where he put on a string of good performances against the world’s top domestic sides.
The leg-spinner put on an impressive display of spin bowling in the final match of the tournament with figures of 2-9 from his three overs.
He finally made his debut for Mumbai Indians against Kolkata Knight Riders in IPL 6, where the leg-spinner went wicket-less with a figure of 0-34 in four overs. Mumbai Indians released Chahal at the end of the sixth season of the IPL.
A fresh start
The leg-spinner was signed up by the Vijay Mallya-owned Royal Challengers Bangalore for the base amount of Rs 10 lakhs in the 2014 IPL Auctions and has since been a revelation for RCB. The leg-spinner is least intimidated by the short boundaries at the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore, and uses the short boundaries to his advantage with his looping deliveries at the attacking batsmen despite his deliveries going out of the park.
He became an instant success for the Bangalore side scalping 12 wickets in his first season with the team. The leggie came close to doubling his tally of 12 wickets in the previous season, collecting 21 wickets in Bangalore’s run to the IPL finals. The performance was overshadowed by the dynamic duo of Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers.
His performance did not go unnoticed and got its due where it was required with a national team call-up for the Zimbabwe series in the year 2016, where he impressed.
A strong show
The RCB leggie put up an impressive performance against England in the recently concluded T20 series and became the leader of the pack, with the additional responsibility of bowling up front against the likes of Jason Roy and Sam Billings. Jason Roy welcomed the spinner with shots all around the ground including the improvised switch-hit into the stands.
The leg-spinner was not afraid to toss up the ball against Sam Billings, and it paid off for him. His tossed-up delivery caused the ball to dip which resulted in a bat-pad catch from the opener to the slip fielder Suresh Raina.
Roy brought out a sweep shot over the hands of the square leg fielder after being forced to catch up with the required rate. The leg-spinner daringly tossed up another one, beating Roy with flight resulting in an inside edge into the hands of MS Dhoni.
Virat Kohli made full use of the leggie inside the powerplay overs and he conceded 19 in his first two overs. The leg-spinner was the go-to-man for the captain in the powerplay overs and also when India was desperately looking for a wicket. The leggie obliged the captain’s wish for a wicket with a double strike in his next over, removing the dangerous Eoin Morgan with a googly which was mistimed by the England captain.
Root’s dismissal was an Amit Mishra-esque delivery from the RCB spinner, a flat fizzer 10kph faster than his previous delivery, beating the batsmen for pace.
Chahal’s performance was not only a morale booster for Kohli but also was a crowd lifting one. Chinnaswamy made their voice heard after the fall of successive wickets. The English side reeled under the pressure of a huge target and Chahal made use of his variations to scalp five wickets in his last two overs.
Figures of 6-25 are also the best for any Indian bowler in the history of T20I. This record performance is a stepping stone for the second highest wicket taker in the 2016 IPL to weave his magic in future for India.
"It's like a home ground match for me," Chahal said in an interview. "I've not played too many series for India. Whenever I come to Bangalore, I get a vibe. I feel at home here as I've spent three seasons with RCB now."Published 05 Feb 2017, 19:47 IST