“When Chahal cleaned up the South African innings with the dismissal of Morris, he not only captured his first 5-wicket haul in the ODIs but with a career average of 21.88, he has almost assured that with his shrewdness and cleverness, he, along with Kuldeep Yadav, have the potential to become one of India’s greatest ever bowling pairs”.
A special talent
Yuzvendra Chahal equipped with a jerky action and an array of sliders with a flattish trajectory is no common bowler. A national level chess player, the youngster has the skill to fox the opponents and indulge in mind games, even when the situation is not in his favour. While chess remains more intriguing than the game of cricket, the lessons learned from the sport can be utilised even when out in the field. Lessons of prolonged attention spans and focus; concentration and patience can be maneuvered from the chess boards onto the cricket pitches and one gets a sly glimpse of these traits whenever the wily wrist spinner Chahal takes the field.
“In IPL, if I go for 40 runs in four overs, even then I should feel that I have been hit on good balls. It shouldn’t be that I am bowling to escape cheaply. That is my strength, and that is why I am in the team.”
Unabashed and always ready for a mighty comeback, the shrewd bowler, who has perfected his art bowling on the placid and small Chinnaswamy wickets in Bengaluru, where run-scoring is as easy as it gets, was at his mighty self at the slow Centurion track in the second ODI against South Africa.
Introduced into the attack in the now customary eleventh over, the Proteas were almost determined to not commit the grave mistakes from the first ODI, in which they had succumbed to the wrath of the Indian wrist spinners. They were more assured in this game and they had taken out all the efforts to ensure that the mistakes of the previous game were not replicated.
And so, the fielding coach Justin Ontong faced Indian spinner Kedar Jadhav in the nets to get a sense of what awaited them. Head coach Ottis Gibson, was forced to toss the ball like Chahal does and even the injured Faf du Plessis was not discarded of his services, as he stuck around the South African camp, imparting the skills that are needed to sweep the spinners.
Quinton de Kock had asked Imran Tahir to bowl him a half-tracker, which was sent down towards the boundary ropes and when he survived the first six deliveries that he faced by Chahal in the second game, his confidence came revving up. The seventh delivery was almost an exact replica of the ball that had been sent down by Tahir.
The Chahal show at Centurion
It was a half-tracker, which was pulled straight up into the hands of the deep square leg fielder. In all his excitement, he failed to see that the ball had been sent in slower and shorter than what he had faced. The slowness of the ball ensured that there was some extra turn as a result, and just when de Kock had been assured of mastering the spin twins that India had, he fell to just that.
The ability to vary his pace and to keep the deliveries within the 55mph mark acts as a major reason for his growing effectiveness. In a set-up where thick edges, small grounds, and heavy bats are the norms, this slowness can bamboozle the opponents. By not relying much on the pitch and by bowling slow, the ball will turn on any surface.
“You cannot bowl at one pace. There is bounce available on these pitches. If you bowl fast, the ball won’t turn and it will come on to the bat.”
His next wicket –that of the debutant Khaya Zondo- was a result of the slow run-rate and yet another excellent slower by Chahal, who tossed up the ball to Zondo, which turned away after pitching in around the off. The batsmen, who wanted to play a slog-sweep away from the turn, managed to top-edge to midwicket.
A few deliveries later, he had experienced player JP Duminy back in the hut after the player missed a sweep and was caught plumb in front. Morne Morkel could hardly provide any resistance to the wrong ‘un and with his fourth wicket, Chahal went on to become the Indian player with the best bowling records on this ground, beating Harbhajan Singh’s feat.
Of course, the fact that taking wickets remains the first priority for the bowler even if he is smashed away for 70 runs is an added incentive. “I know it can go for six too, but when your captain and your team back you, it gives you the confidence to do it. Virat bhaiya [brother] lets us take the field we want. He tells us it doesn’t matter if we are hit for a six, we must bowl to our strength. If your strength is to flight it, then flight it. When your captain tells you that, you don’t have to worry even if you have been hit for two or three sixes.”
When Chahal cleaned up the South African innings with the dismissal of Morris, he not only captured his first 5-wicket haul in the ODIs, but with a career average of 21.88, he has almost assured that with his shrewdness and cleverness, he, along with Kuldeep Yadav, have the potential to become one of India’s greatest ever bowling pairs.