Yuzvendra Chahal, the concussion substitute for Ravindra Jadeja, grabbed the opportunity with both hands on Friday to deliver a match-winning spell against Australia in Canberra. It was quite a turnaround for the leg-spinner, who was eyeing to shrug off his lacklustre performance of the ODI series. Chahal's performance was miserable in the ODI series, as he conceded 160 runs in 20 overs.
However, Chahal had an eventful day with the ball on Friday as he finished with figures of 3/25, which included two prized wickets of Aaron Finch and Steve Smith. Not only did the leg-spinner eclipse Jadeja's 23-ball 44 carnage, but he also shifted the game in India's favour. Amid the much-heated 'like-for-like' concussion debate, Chahal strode up to pocket the Player of the Match award.
1st T20I: Jadeja's concussion substitute courts controversy; Vaughan, Moody question India's tactics
Chahal came into the attack in an awkward situation when Finch and D'Arcy Short had stitched a half-century opening stand. Australia were hoping to flag off the T20I series on a high but Chahal had other plans. Chasing a 161-run total at the Manuka Oval, the hosts were mauled by impressive bowling show of Chahal.
He provided India with a much-needed breakthrough by dismissing Finch. The 'unexpected' concussion substitute struck in his next over too. He dismissed an in-form Smith to turn the tide in India's favour and later scalped the wicket of Matthew Wade to register a match-defining three-fer, playing a crucial role in India sealing an 11-run victory in the first T20I. The 30-year-old's bowling exploits also earned him Man of the Match award and he became the first concussion substitute to bag the trophy.
"I got to know that I will play just 10-15 minutes before the start of the innings. The way Zampa bowled, I tried to do the same. Zampa was pushing the ball faster. I had been giving flight in the One-day Internationals. I bowled according to my plans," said Chahal in the post-match presentation.
Chahal's inclusion in the squad raised did raise a few eyebrows. While a set of fans backed India's tactical move, few questioned if Chahal was a 'like-for-like' replacement of Jadeja. Team India's decision to bring in Chahal for Jadeja also irked Australia head coach Justin Langer, who was spotted arguing with the match referee, David Boon, before the start of the second innings.
Jadeja could not play as a bowler in the second innings after a short ball by Mitchell Starc hit his helmet during his knock. He, however, was assessed only after his knock, raising a lot of questions over the need of his concussion substitute.