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In the absence of double Bs, Deepak Chahar emerges as India's leading T20I pacer

Jasprit Bumrah celebrates a wicket

If you asked someone a few months ago as to who would be India's leading pace bowlers in the upcoming T20 World Cup, the answer would have been pretty straight forward -- Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar. Some may have put their money on Mohammed Shami, but for his contentious death bowling.

However, with Bumrah recuperating from a stress fracture in the back and Bhuvneshwar Kumar battling recurring niggles, India were in dire need of a pace bowler who could not only swing the ball in the powerplay but also stem the flow of runs at the death. At such an opportune time, Deepak Chahar emerged at the scene.

Consistent performances put Chahar atop the T20I pile

It is an achievement in itself that stand-in captain Rohit Sharma and the team management wants Deepak Chahar, a bowler just seven T20Is old, to bowl "the crucial overs". After his swashbuckling performance on Sunday, Chahar became the eight bowler to pick up a hat-trick for India and the first Indian to bag a T20I hat-trick.

Notwithstanding the opposition, international figures of 3.2-0-7-6 warrant top-drawer praise, reserved for a select few, especially when the team is playing with only five bowlers (four and a half, if you please), the series is on the line and you are given all the crunch overs. What's even more impressive is that the feat is not based on plain luck. The CSK pacer has already made his abilities known in his short international career.

In only his second T20I match against West Indies in Providence, as Chahar walked away with the Man of the Match award, owing to his figures of 3-1-4-3, skipper Virat Kohli reckoned his new ball skills to be "right up there" with Bhuvneshwar Kumar, a huge compliment in itself.

In his next game, the 2nd South Africa T20I at Mohali, Chahar started from where he had left. His swing, economic returns and control over the ball was sheer poetry in motion.

"When I sit down to plan now, I plan thinking I have only two fielders. My thinking has become such that when I am planning against a batsman, I automatically assume I have only two fielders outside. It has become a habit," Chahar said after claiming figures of 4-0-22-2 in that game, which played a major role in India's seven-wicket win.

To say that he appeared on the scene just a few months or even few years ago would not be factually correct. The 27-year-old actually made his first-class debut way back in 2010, at 18 years of age. He then registered figures of 7.3-8-10 in the first innings against Hyderabad, backing it up with 18-54-4 in the second innings. However, inconsistent performances and injuries derailed his career through the initial phase.

IPL stocks on the rise

In the first few years of the IPL as well, Rajasthan Royals -- his Ranji Trophy franchise, did not give him a game. When he was finally selected by Rising Pune Supergiant, he only played a total of 5 matches in 2016 and 2017 and managed a solitary wicket.

Chahar then had a breakout Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy 2017-18. Being given the new ball by Chennai Super Kings, he responded brilliantly, picking the most wickets in the powerplay in the last three IPL seasons, a commendable feat when some of the best swing bowlers of the world such as Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Trent Boult and Tim Southee are playing in the same tournament.

On the back of his 22 wickets from 17 matches at an average of 21.90 and an economy of 7.47 in IPL 2019, he got a look-in in the Indian team.

Improved returns at the death

Chahar was always a dangerous customer with the new ball with his ability to jag the ball both ways, coupled with only a subtle variation of his wrist. But, his medium pace and lack of stamina in the initial years did not allow him to master the art of death bowling. That, however, is a thing of the past.

"Earlier I used to bowl out with the new ball, and people used to ask me why I don't bowl at the death. I used to say death is easier to bowl. My brain had become so used to bowling with two fielders outside the circle that five seemed a luxury. If you have variations, you can use them at the death," Chahar reckons.

With a wide range of variations, Chahar already has one leg on the flight to Australia for the 2020 T20 WC. That he can throw around his bat to good effect, as seen in the IPL, further helps him fit the job description that Team India is looking for. Don't be surprised if he ultimately pips the injury-stricken Bhuvneshwar Kumar to earn his WC spot.

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