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In praise of Bumrah and Chahal

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India_Zimbabwe_ODI_T20I_series_cricketThey talk about batsmen needing multiple gears to succeed in white-ball cricket. The same applies to bowlers as well.

The very top drawer limited-overs bowlers these days compulsively practice so that they can obtain both polished defensive and attacking skillsets. Pacers are not feared for their wide-yorkers, nor are spinners feared for their round-arm darts. Similarly, bowlers who don't have the skills to prevent boundaries and bowl dot balls find it hard to survive.

The Fade of Jade (Dernbach) is a classic case. He came on to the scene as a specialist, end-overs bowler and was successful for a brief while. But once he got found out by batsmen, he had no other option and no way out. Some more recent examples include James Faulkner and Axar Patel.

Similarly, the likes of Dale Steyn and Mitchell Johnson, both great Test quicks, can hardly make their way into the first XIs of their respective IPL teams.

Being one-dimensional can only take you so far. When you get exposed, you really get exposed. You flounder. You have nowhere to go and nowhere to hide with the floodlights shining harshly down on you. The batters and the playing conditions these days allow no space for mediocre or unrefined bowling.

This is where I'm impressed by the likes of Jasprit Bumrah and Yuzvendra Chahal. Indian cricket is so lucky to have discovered these talents after years of tolerating seemingly intolerable bowling shows.

Both have their wicket-taking deliveries as well as the ability to set batsmen up for those deliveries (which is just as important, if not more). At the same time, they are top-class defensive bowlers capable of absorbing decisive-moment pressure and delivering the goods when the chips are down.

 

An ex-cricketer or two believe that you can’t read much into performances against Zimbabwe. And they are correct, partly. But from what we've seen of both of them in Harare and in mutliple IPL seasons, they are very capable of turning into world-class limited-overs bowlers. You look for signs to predict how far a cricketer will go. And with Bumrah and Chahal, you can safely say that they’re made for the long haul.

Yuzvendra Chahal, in particular, has that something about him. He's one dynamic cricketer who seems to be tailored to modern-day demands. He ticks most boxes.

To start with, he spins the ball (can't say the same about most ‘spinners’ operating around the world presently) both ways and has the cool head to use his variations cleverly. Above all, he gives the impression of a team man - like a Suresh Raina - who you would want to have in your side despite a few non-performances.

A leg spinner is defined by the size of his heart and Chahal has a real big heart. When they talk of a leggie showing character, that is what they mean. This wiry Haryana lad isn't scared of tossing the ball up just after getting smashed to cow corner and back.

He's the sort of bowler who’s up for a challenge; who wants the ball in his hand in the highest pressure situations. He’s done it time and again for Virat Kohli at RCB. In fact, it wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that his team’s (laughable) bowling rested on his shoulders.

While I would still rate Amit Mishra ahead of Yuzi in the longer format, I don't think that equation will stay the same for long. Provided the latter switches to a different state and plays a good 25 First-class matches over the course of two seasons, he should be ready for five-day cricket as well.

I suspect, though, that Chahal will be seen in national whites much earlier than we might come to expect. There are two reasons why I say this.

One, Virat Kohli has seen him impress from close quarters. For those who think that Kohli won't fast-track Chahal into whites based on IPL performances, I throw at you the (roly-poly) case of Karn Sharma.

Two, Amit Mishra’s inconsistency, as many believe, stems from the fact that he is not quick in the air. He does spin the ball, but spins it too slowly to bother batsmen. Chahal bowls his deliveries slightly flatter in the air and yet manages to make the ball change direction after pitching.

Following Chahal’s progress across formats should be quite fascinating.

 

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