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Chawla shows he wasn’t a wrong choice

Leg-spinners are unpredictable creatures. They can be erratic but when they get it right, they inflict decisive damage.

cricket Updated: Feb 15, 2011 00:53 IST
Atreyo Mukhopadhyay

Leg-spinners are unpredictable creatures. They can be erratic but when they get it right, they inflict decisive damage.

Piyush Chawla redeemed himself in Sunday's practice match against Australia in Bangalore. With a spell of 5-0-9-4, he has nearly dispelled the notion that he's a wrong choice for the World Cup squad.

Eyebrows were raised when selectors plucked him virtually out of nowhere and took him to South Africa before ushering him into the World Cup squad.

He had an indifferent outing in the only game he played there and, prior to that, his performance in domestic circuit, too, wasn't noteworthy.

Even on Sunday, Chawla started badly, conceding five wides down the leg side off his first ball. There was little in his first spell to suggest that he would pose a threat to the Aussies. Not that he bowled many loose balls, but the batsmen were gradually getting comfortable against him and took 22 runs in his first spell of four overs.

The Uttar Pradesh player's status and the destiny of the match started changing from the first over after he was brought back.

Giving the ball air and getting it to dip and turn from a middle-stump line, he planted doubts in the batsmen's mind. They didn't know what to do and kept getting beaten by flight and spin.

“He did well in the past, in whatever opportunities he got,” said MS Dhoni. “He was under pressure in South Africa because he was playing after a long time, although we knew what he's capable of. But he has to score a few runs too. That's why he's in the squad.”

Chawla's success has landed Dhoni in a new dilemma. “It will depend on what kind of pitches we play on.”

“The selection of spinners will look wise sometimes, and not quite on other occasions. But picking up an extra spinner in the 11 will still be a big headache. It's good for the team nonetheless.”

The hallmark of Chawla's performance was the kind of spin he imparted to his leg-breaks. Never a prodigious turner of his stock ball, he used to rely more on googlies. On Sunday, with some assistance from the surface, he was getting his leg-breaks to rip off a good line.

With Chawla, who made his Test debut at 18, showing glimpses of coming of age, the skipper has a lot of bowling options.

A clever user of spinners, how Dhoni juggles his resources will be one of the things to watch over the next few weeks.