RR’s Yuzvendra Chahal creates the right kind of buzz at IPL 2024 | Cricket

Yuzvendra Chahal’s place in the all-time list of IPL greats is secure. With 193 wickets in 148 games, he is way ahead in the all-time top wicket-taker’s list. It is the result of maintaining a high strike-rate since making his debut in 2013.

Rajasthan Royals bowler Yuzvendra Chahal celebrates the wicket of Mumbai Indians batter Tilak Varma during the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2024 cricket match (PTI)
Rajasthan Royals bowler Yuzvendra Chahal celebrates the wicket of Mumbai Indians batter Tilak Varma during the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2024 cricket match (PTI)

Among the current players, Rashid Khan is possibly only one who could have a shot at his numbers, being at 142 wickets in 112 games.

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The beauty of the leg-spinner’s craft is the way he goes about setting up the batters. Being a fine chess player is an advantage for the spinner but even if you don’t have a chess player’s mind, with experience you start to understand the game better, gain the control to execute the plans better. That’s why we are seeing the best of the leg-spinner from Haryana in his 30s.

In the last five seasons starting from 2019, he has finished with 18 wickets twice, 21 twice and 27 in 2022 when he won the Purple Cap by topping the wicket-taker’s list.

He has made an impressive start to the new season as well. After taking 1/25 in three overs versus Lucknow Super Giants, 2/19 versus Delhi Capitals, he gave a masterful exhibition of leg-spin bowling in T20 cricket with 3/11 in four overs against Mumbai Indians on Monday. It’s not just about the numbers, he is getting big breakthroughs with his scalps including Deepak Hooda, Rishabh Pant, Hardik Pandya and Tilak Varma.

His success is down to the delightful use of the widish delivery. It foxes many batters and gives them precious little in their hitting arc. When they do try to hit, the ball either goes straight by, or is a googly or the regular leg-spinner. The variations are endless and Chahal seems to know just how and when to use them.

For all his success in the highly competitive T20 league, Chahal is yet to get a chance in the T20 World Cup. He has played in only one ICC World Cup, the 50-over tournament in 2019. That was a period when his partnership with chinaman bowler Kuldeep Yadav was India’s main spin weapon. But they didn’t have the desired impact at the tournament and the wrist-spin partnership fizzled out. In this age of focus on batting deep, his limited talent is a handicap when it comes to the balance of the side.

Now, Kuldeep is back in contention while the 33-year-old Chahal, who has 96 wickets in 80 T20Is, will be hoping a good IPL season will earn him a berth for the forthcoming T20 World Cup which starts right after the end of IPL 2024.

After his masterly spell of 4-0-11-3, Royals bowling coach Shane Bond advised the bowler to avoid any undue pressure by thinking about his World Cup chances.

“The competition is pretty tough (in the India team), so one of the real challenges for any bowler coming into this tournament is to forget that there is a World Cup, and you start bowling to get into a World Cup team,” he said. “If your team is successful, and you are in a winning team, then selections and rewards come from that. That has more of been our focus, to forget about all that other noise from the outside and just work really hard for each other.”

Bond added: “If we do that, then I have got no doubt people are going to start talking like you are now about Chahal and whether he will feature in a World Cup or not. He is bowling beautifully, and if he keeps doing that, then we have got a massive chance in this tournament.”

On Monday at the Wankhede Stadium, he was brilliant. Trent Boult had set up the game for Rajasthan Royals with a three-wicket burst with the new ball, but the spinners had a job to do after Hardik Pandya and Tilak Varma launched a counter-attack during their fifth wicket partnership of 56 runs.

Chahal broke the partnership with the wicket of Pandya on 34 before also accounting for Tilak. In all, 16 of Chahal’s 24 deliveries were dots, and his four-over spell ended with an economy of only 2.75.

A crafty operator, the way he sets up the batters shows he has a big heart and brain ticking. He is always looking to spot the chink in the batter’s game, trying to lure him into playing a false shot. Pandya also fell for the trap set by flight. The MI captain perished to a lofted shot caught at long-on.

“Before that (Pandya dismissal) couple of balls were turning so I thought this is the time I can take a chance. We didn’t want him to settle down because we know how dangerous he can be at the end (slog overs), so I thought let’s try this ball (in the slot),” Chahal told the official broadcaster.

Sharing his approach, he said: “I always back myself, my skills, I know that this is the format sometimes I will get hit, sometimes I will get wickets.”


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