The word powerplay has almost become synonymous with Deepak Chahar keeping Chennai Super Kings in reference. And over the course of the last few Indian Premier League (IPL) seasons, Chahar has emerged to become a specialist with the new ball under the captaincy of MS Dhoni. Well, his job profile remained the same with his re-introduction to the Indian cricket team in the T20I format after almost a year following his debut. However, on Sunday, stand-in skipper Rohit Sharma had a different plan set for the Bangladesh side in the third and final T20I match of the series in Nagpur and Chahar too had a trick or two up his sleeves to trouble the visitors. The rest, as they say, was history. An hour and a half into Bangladesh's innings, and Chahar did not just become the first Indian to bag a hat-trick in men's T20I, but also finished with the best-ever bowling figures in the format.
According to ESPNCricinfo, Chahar has bowled 80 per cent (493 out of 616) of his deliveries for Chennai Super Kings with the new ball. In fact, Dhoni, at times, gets Chahar to bowl three straight overs in the powerplays. The same continued after donning the Indian jersey. In the six appearances he has had in the format prior to the Nagpur game, Chahar delivered 76 per cent (90 out of 126) of his balls with the shiny white. And result? Six of his eight wickets in his first six appearances have been with the new ball. His best performance was against West Indies in Providence where get had got rid of the top three in his first two overs and ended with a stunning 3 for 4. The performance once again displayed Chahar’s ability to swerve and control the new ball, but this time on foreign soil.
But on Sunday, the script was different.
India headed into the game with a bowler less. The pace combination was very young. And it implied that Shivam Dube, who only made his debut in the opener against Bangladesh, had to bowl the full quota of four overs. India were defending 174 under dewy conditions. The combination also implied that Chahar would have to step aside from his usual role and carry more responsibility in the absence of seniors. Rohit opened the attack with Khaleel Ahmed, introduced Washington Sundar in the second over and then brought in Chahar for the third.
"The plan was that I would get the responsibility of bowling the main overs," Chahar said during the post-match presentation. "Usually I bowl with the new ball, but Rohit bhai said I'll bowl the crucial overs today, whenever the team needed me to bowl. I'm happy that the management gave me this responsibility on this stage."
With dew coming into the picture, Chahar's swinging ability was to be set aside. He was given just one over in the powerplay and Chahar had given India a big breakthrough with back-to-back dismissals. In the absence of swing, Chahar deployed deliveries within the range of short of length and length and garnished it effectively with his slower deliveries and knuckle balls.
The plan helped him dismiss opener Liton Das, middle-order batsman Mohammad Mithun and set-up the hat-trick delivery in the 19th over. As against Chahar's ideology, other pacers combining the two nations were mostly targetting the fuller region. When Chahar upped his length, he first dismissed Soumya Sarkar. Against the slower delivery angled down to the zone outside off stump, Sarkar got the toe-end of the bat to send the ball flying to Shivam Dube at mid-off.
In his second over, he slipped in another, this time a widish knuckle ball down the corridor. Mohammad Mithun chipped it towards long-off only to find KL Rahul in the deep. The dismissal not just ended Bangladesh's strong 98-run partnership for the third wicket, it gave India another crucial breakthrough. Chahar’s figure stood 2 for three after two overs. Shivam Dube then dismissed Mushfiqur Rahim with a peach of a yorker in the next over and India were back in the game.
The final one was a top-notch Yorker. He got to squeeze it in leaving Aminul Islam dumbstruck as the ball rattled against the off stump. Chahar finished with 6 for 7 in 3.2 overs – the best figures in men’s T20Is surpassing Ajantha Mendis’ 6/8 in 2012.