With emphasis on run-control over wicket-taking, Rahul Chahar tries to adapt in the age of big hitters

Chahar is not alone in thinking this way. Rajasthan Royals and India spinner R Ashwin had spoken along similar lines on his YouTube channel.
Punjab Kings bowler Rahul Chahar celebrates the wicket of Chennai Super Kings batter Moeen Ali during an IPL 2024 match at the MA Chidambaram stadium in Chennai on Wednesday.
Punjab Kings bowler Rahul Chahar celebrates the wicket of Chennai Super Kings batter Moeen Ali during an IPL 2024 match at the MA Chidambaram stadium in Chennai on Wednesday.Photo | ANI

CHENNAI: Much like it has been for his team, it has been a roller-coaster of an IPL season for Punjab Kings spinner Rahul Chahar. While the team is placed seventh in the table with four wins in ten matches, Rahul played in only four of them. He started off the season with a 1/33 against Delhi Capitals, but the next two games did not go well. He bowled just four overs across two games and went for 58 runs before missing out on the next few games.

Chahar eventually came back against Kolkata Knight Riders — where Kings completed the highest successful chase — and had good returns — 1/33 in four overs at 8.25 economy. It only got better when he returned to MA Chidambaram Stadium, one of his favourite venues, to go up against Chennai Super Kings. With the happy memories of 2023 and 2019 at the venue, Chahar continued to thrive on a red soil pitch — 2/16 in four overs, including an over to MS Dhoni in the death — as Kings got the better of the Super Kings once again in Chennai. The icing on the cake was the wicket of Ravindra Jadeja and Moeen Ali, as his partner-in-crime Harpreet Brar (2/17) sent back spin basher Shivam Dube for a first-ball duck.

While Chahar and Brar accounted for four CSK wickets on Wednesday, the significant aspect of their spell was that they did not concede a single boundary in eight overs. And that is perhaps the most rewarding thing for Chahar — to be economical and not go for runs — and understandably so. This IPL season has been titled in the favour of batters and with the Impact Player rule coming in, there has been little to no inhibition from the batters to hit sixes. The record-breaking totals posted in the ongoing seasons sum the effect it has had on the bowlers.

As a spinner, Chahar, who is not a big fan of the Impact Player rule, is trying to find his own way to make an impact. For him, the focus has shifted to being economical than going for wickets. "The way things are going it looks very difficult for bowlers. I think these days, more than wicket taking, bowlers who can be economical are more valuable. And that is what I am focusing on, my strength is my economy," Chahar tells this daily.

Punjab Kings bowler Rahul Chahar celebrates the wicket of Chennai Super Kings batter Moeen Ali during an IPL 2024 match at the MA Chidambaram stadium in Chennai on Wednesday.
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Chahar is not alone in thinking this way. Rajasthan Royals and India spinner R Ashwin had spoken along similar lines on his YouTube channel. "Sometimes even when you bowl well, you go for 40 runs. Many teams these days use AI and technology and what's emerged out of those is that wicket-taking is becoming irrelevant in T20 cricket. If you look at this IPL wicket-taking is sometimes hampering certain teams," Ashwin had said.

Punjab Kings fast bowling coach Charl Langeveldt, meanwhile, said that trying to be economical might look defensive, but that is not necessarily the case. "When you are playing high-scoring games, your defensive plan is your wicket-taking option. So being able to be defensive might sound negative but I feel like it gives you the opportunity to create wickets. So I always say if you are bowling economically you are creating opportunities," he had said ahead of the match in Chennai.

How do you do it? You do it by not bowling keeping the batter guessing and not bowling in the same areas. "As a spinner, you should keep varying your things. You cannot bowl six balls in one place. You have to play with batters' minds, varying the line and length. And I think that is the way you can go because you cannot be one-dimensional. You also have to think what the batter is about to do, who he is batting with, whether he is stepping out or trying to reverse sweep because spinner cannot do the things a fast bowler can - bouncer, yorker and all that - you have to keep the other things in mind," Chahar said.

"I think we are mature enough and have played a lot cricket on different kinds of wicket so we are used to change based on conditions. It is not very difficult you just have to prepare one day before, like for example today (Tuesday) I am going for practice I will bowl like I am bowling to Shivam Dube or Ruturaj Gaikwad. I think like that and practice like that."

Whatever he tried to practice on Tuesday worked out well for Chahar and the Kings. And they would be hoping that it continues over the next four games as well.

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