Not many young India bowlers are spoken of in the same breath as Bhuvneshwar Kumar only after their second T20I. But Deepak Chahar's performance against West Indies in the third and final T20I prompted India captain Virat Kohli to put the fast bowler's new-ball skills on par with those of the senior pro's.
"He was really lethal with the new ball," Kohli said at the post-match presentation of Chahar's incisive opening spell that fetched him match-winning figures of 3-1-4-3. "The way he swings it and the areas he bowls in, he puts the batsman in a lot of trouble.
"With the new ball, his skills are right up there [with Bhuvneshwar's], swinging it both ways and getting a lot with the new ball in any conditions, and that has been his USP in the IPL as well."
Having burst on to the scene in 2010 with first-innings figures of 8 for 10 on his Ranji Trophy debut for Rajasthan, Chahar lost his way somewhat after that.
Starting out as someone who mainly relied on swing and bowled at about 125kph, he ended up injuring himself while trying to increase his pace. Fighting through bad form and a spate of injuries, he eventually got his career back on track at the 2019 IPL. Playing for Chennai Super Kings, Chahar finished the tournament as the third-highest wicket-taker with 22 scalps - 15 of those coming in the Powerplay. Not only was he swinging the new ball, but his pace was also up, consistently hovering around the 135kph mark.
Both these qualities were on view again on an overcast morning in Guyana as Chahar ran through the West Indies top order. Consistently pitching the ball up, he swung his way to the Player of the Match award on the eve of his 27th birthday as India clinched the series 3-0.
Aside from the conditions, Chahar was also helped by Bhuvneshwar's experience at the other end. In the opening over of the match, Bhuvneshwar beat the outside edges of both Evin Lewis and Sunil Narine with outswingers, and conceded just one run. Chahar cashed in in the next over as Narine tried to pull a length ball from outside off, only to mistime it towards mid-on where Navdeep Saini took a low catch tumbling forward.
Lewis became Chahar's second victim, dismissed lbw to an inswinger on the first ball of the fourth over. Lewis, who had been pushed on the back foot by Bhuvneshwar till then, was now tested with a pitched-up delivery. But instead of coming forward, he went back and across, tried to play the line with a straight bat, but the ball swung in sharply to trap him in front of the middle stump.
Two balls later, Kieron Pollard got lucky as he looked to drive a fuller delivery but the ball did a touch too much to induce an outside edge. Shimron Hetmyer, however, wasn't that lucky. Unlike Lewis, Hetmyer came forward but ended up cramping himself and had to play across. The ball nipped back in once again to beat the bat and pinged Hetmyer on the pads. The double-wicket over from Chahar meant West Indies were 14 for 3 at the end of four overs, failing to get off to a decent start for the third time in as many games.
Speaking to the host broadcaster after the match, Chahar explained his ploy: "The plan was to bowl outside off to the left-handers because they want to play towards midwicket. I tried to first assess how much swing there was. First, I tried a couple of outswingers and noticed the ball was swinging. And when I went for the inswinger, it swung even more, so I focused mainly on the inswingers.
"If the ball comes in, then it's more difficult for batsmen because there are more wicket-taking options like leg before, bowled, or even caught behind, if it goes with the angle."
Of late, it has been observed the white ball doesn't swing as much as it used to earlier. Therefore, it becomes important for bowlers, especially in T20Is, to find out quickly whether or not it's going to swing. And, if it does, for how long.
"It usually takes me the first two balls to judge whether there is swing or not," Chahar said. "If my first couple of balls don't swing, then it means it's not going to swing; I need to shorten my length and use my variations more. If it's swinging, I use fewer variations. Since there was moisture in the surface, and the ball was seaming and swinging both, I decided to go fuller.
"Generally, the white ball swings only for first the two or three overs but conditions were good today, so it was swinging more. You have to assess on the first ball of each over you bowl if it's still swinging or not. It's very rare if it's swinging in your third over, but today it was doing a bit even then."
Chahar's exploits in the last IPL had fetched him a spot among India's nets bowlers for the 2019 ODI World Cup. Given he can contribute with the bat as well, with Tuesday's match-winning performance, Chahar might have made an early case for a place in the squad for the 2020 T20 World Cup.