“Pace sensation”, exclaimed one headline, the other called his spell “deadly” - Deepak Chahar’s inconceivable 8 for 10 may have made many a jaws drop, for who expected a rookie to cause such a riot. But ever since I met this young lad at the nets in Rajasthan, I knew something big was in the offing.
I opened the innings on one such session, while Chahar along with Pankaj Singh took the new ball. This was my first net session after the off-season and my focus, as expected, was on the more experienced Pankaj. I approached his bowling with caution and paid little heed to the new kid on the block.
But as it often happens with a batsman, the moment you drop your guard, you pay dearly. I closed the face of my bat a bit too soon to the first Chahar delivery, which swung away from me, top edge landing in the lap of the fielder at short covers. One ball is never enough to judge the quality of a bowler and hence I moved on.
The Buchi Babu tournament in Chennai was Chahar’s next assignment, and that was when he caught my eye. What impressed me the most was his wrist position (upright and right behind the ball at all times), which allowed him to swing the ball appreciably in the air. But then don’t we produce more bowlers who can swing the ball than the ones who’re really quick?
What separated Chahar from the rest of the crop was his ability to swing the ball both ways with very good control. Chahar could prove to be quite a nightmare for an opener, because it’s very easy to get caught up in his stock delivery, which is the one going away from him that you almost forget about the in-dipper. Something Ravi Teja from Hyderabad would vouch for. He got Chahar’s out-swing covered and started leaving the balls which were meant to be left alone, before he made the fatal error of misjudging by leaving the one which went the other way. He was caught plumb in front.
But it isn’t just his ability to swing the ball or the control, which makes him an exciting prospect. It’s his attitude towards the game and the hunger to be in the thick of action that sets him apart. Picture this: In the first Buchi Babu game, we were in a tight spot towards the end with the opposition needing just four runs to win with one wicket in hand.
The bigger issue being that there were plenty of overs left and the batsman on the non-striker end was batting on 150. One off-target ball was enough for the strike to be rotated and our defeat. We were rather sceptical of giving the ball to a youngster in that situation, not sure of how he would respond. But Chahar’s eagerness to bowl and his confidence to pull it off influenced the decision. He produced a perfect in-swinger to get rid of the last man and we won.
What would hold Chahar in good stead in the future is the fire in his belly. He’s focussed and hard working, so much so that you literally have to prohibit him from practicing more. Probably he’s in a hurry to realise the dream his father dreamt for him, who gave up his job in the Air Force to dedicate his life in making his son’s dream come true.
For now though, the boy wonder is enjoying his new found stardom -- “There are about 150 missed calls on my phone!” he quips.