VISAKHAPATNAM: Yuzvendra Chahal had entered India's five-match T20I series against South Africa on the back of a stupendous IPL 2022, where he was the leading wicket-taker with 27 wickets in 17 matches at an economy rate of 7.75.
But in Delhi and Cuttack, Chahal conceded 0/26 in 2.1 overs and 1/49 in four overs respectively, with South Africa batters, especially Heinrich Klassen on Sunday, hitting him easily for boundaries.
But, at Visakhapatnam, Chahal went back to his strengths as a leg-spinner: varying his pace, using more of flatter trajectory (sometimes wide lines) and leg-breaks to get Rassie van der Dussen and Dwaine Pretorius while going for the cut. He then followed it up by getting Klassen, his long-time nemesis, with a wide outside the off-stump delivery which the right-hander miscued to extra cover.
So, what really changed for Chahal to pick 3/20, including 11 dot balls, and bag the Player of the Match award in India's 48-run win, their first of this series?
"In the last game (at Cuttack), I was bowling a lot of sliders, and I was also bowling a bit faster. So even when I was bowling good balls, I wasn't getting any turn. It was going like a flipper.
"I spoke to Paras (Mhambrey, bowling coach) sir and coaches on what can be done (to improve). So, I kept the pace same and I changed the seam position and bowled fast leg breaks in order to get some help (from the pitch)," said Chahal after the match.
To go back to his threatening and usual self, especially for the control in the middle overs, Chahal's return to his strength points got India the results they missed badly in Delhi and Cuttack.
"My strength is to turn the ball, to get it to dip. I strayed from that itself (at Cuttack). So it became very easy for batsmen as the ball was just going straight.
"Here, I tried to vary my pace and line too so that the batsmen cannot predict. There was help from the wicket in the last game (at Cuttack) but didn't bowl well. But I learnt from it, spoke to coaches and backed my strengths to do well here (in Visakhapatnam)."
"The plan was to just bowl to my strength. I was anyway going for runs, but if I bowl to my strength and still go for 40-45 runs, I would pick up at least three wickets too, which didn't happen in the last game. And when you dismiss two batsmen in the middle order (van der Dussen and Pretorius), the pressure shifts on the batting side."
With India needing wins in Rajkot and Bengaluru to win the series, expect Chahal to play a crucial role by being more himself with the ball, which could translate to a ticket to Men's T20 World Cup in Australia later in the year.
"I think they (modern-day batters) try to do a lot more reverse sweep as well as the (conventional) sweep. Because if someone does the reverse sweep, it makes things difficult for the bowlers. At the same time, you got to be ready for it as you are playing the game for so long and you ought to have a second plan. That's why we had a field that if Klassen stays till the end, we will bowl with that setting on the field," concluded the leg-spinner.