CSK got me back on my feet: Tushar Deshpande

By, Mumbai
Jun 02, 2023 07:20 AM IST

CSK’s highest wicket-taker talks about learning death-overs bowling from Dwayne Bravo and the joy of getting his father snapped with MS Dhoni.

While Tushar Deshpande was Chennai Super Kings’s highest wicket-taker (21 wickets) in their title-winning IPL season, he went for a lot of runs in the slog overs of the final against Gujarat Titans. Gujarat’s blitz meant his figures slid from 2-0-18-0 to 4-0-56-0.

Tushar Deshpande bowls during the IPL 2023 cricket match between Gujarat Titans and Chennai Super Kings(PTI) PREMIUM
Tushar Deshpande bowls during the IPL 2023 cricket match between Gujarat Titans and Chennai Super Kings(PTI)

But the Mumbai pacer prefers to remember his two good balls in the 19th over to Hardik Pandya after conceding a six off the first ball. He stuck to his full-length balls wide of off-stump and managed to save a few runs. Matheesha Pathirana followed up by coming back well in his final over too.

“It could have been worse. They could have gone up to 225 instead of 214. That’s what this format is all about,” says Deshpande in an interview. “This format is simply not for personal agendas. You don’t want to get away with 1/20 in four overs but make no difference to the match. You look to make a difference in a crunch situation.”

With so many 200-plus totals being scored this season, one of CSK’s targets was “to be the best death bowling unit in the competition”. They set about achieving it under the guidance of Dwayne Bravo, an ace death bowler in his time. Deshpande is still work-in-progress, but the learnings have been priceless.

“It was an unbelievable experience working with Bravo. He worked on how to keep the batters guessing and how to use angles,” he said. That’s how it occurred to Deshpande to come around the wicket to Pandya in the final. For Deshpande, wide yorkers and the odd change-up take precedence over slower balls.

“Evolution is constant in T20. There are a lot of options…the knuckle-ball, leg-cutter, off-cutter, split-finger ball. But you have to pick the ball you can integrate with your action and execute it confidently under pressure at the IPL level. You will see something new soon,” Deshpande said.

At the start of the season, CSK bowlers were struggling with no-balls. Deshpande was guilty too. “I think I got a bit nervous playing in front of such a big home crowd at Chepauk. No one came and said anything to me. Soon as I began settling into the tournament, I was able to overcome the problem,” he said.

Working under Dhoni

“The best thing about MS Dhoni the captain is he gives you complete freedom and security to execute. Your belief goes up straightaway,” he said. “And he wants you to learn on the job. It helps you as a bowler to remain calm, if someone is not coming to you again and again when you go for a few runs. All the discussions on bowling plans happen before the match or after.”

Deshpande calls himself a naturally attacking bowler who looks to hit the top of off-stump in the powerplay. That’s what earned him the scalp of Rohit Sharma at the Wankhede Stadium after conceding a six off the previous ball. He counts that wicket as his best in the IPL.

Like every other CSK player, Deshpande rode the wave of support they enjoyed around the country. “Such is Mahi bhai’s aura, every game felt like a home game.

“I got my father (a club-cricketer of his time) to have a picture with him. They are the two most important people in my life,” he said. “CSK ne mujhe doobara khada kiya (CSK have got me back on my feet). I went unsold in the 2021 auction. They called me as a net bowler, picked me in 2022 and this year I am their highest wicket-taker. This version of me that you see is because of CSK and Dhoni.”

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Rasesh Mandani loves a straight drive. He has been covering cricket, the governance and business side of sport for close to two decades. He writes and video blogs for HT.

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