The ninth IPL season ends on Sunday and after a hectic schedule many players will get a well-earned period of rest. India, however, are sending an ODI and T20 squad to Zimbabwe for a series of games at the beginning of June. Rather than risking the likes of Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane, they are using the opportunity to look at several of the younger players who have impressed during their domestic and IPL seasons.
One of the most exciting names in the squad is Yuzvendra Chahal. His IPL franchise, Royal Challengers Bangalore qualified for this year’s final with a win over Gujarat Lions and at the time of writing, Chahal is the second leading wicket taker in this season’s competition. His leg spin bowling has been a pivotal part of RCB’s change in fortunes in the second half of the competition and it has led to his selection for the India cricket team.
Spin bowling has become an integral part of the shorter forms of the game in recent years, as guile and changes of pace have become more frequent. Chahal’s control and ability to take wickets in the middle overs has been crucial to RCB and is one that the India cricket team could benefit from in Zimbabwe.
Unlike many other spinners, Chahal tends to bowl the ball faster and with less dip. With the ball zipping through the air the revolutions on it are much harder to pick for batsmen and his slider has caused many problems. He is not a prodigious turner of the ball but does enough with it and has enough variation to keep the opponents guessing.
Spin bowling is often viewed similarly to keeping wicket in the sense that you get better and hone your skills with experience. It is about learning how to combat aggressive batsmen in the IPL and hoping for miscues more than anything. In the longer formats he will need to adapt but that will only come through playing more and bowling on different surfaces. The India cricket team have played very little cricket outside of their country in the last few years so hopefully this is the chance for him to demonstrate his skill set on different surfaces.
It seems that Chahal is also one of the voices in the RCB dressing room, something that Shaun Pollock has picked up on in commentary. It is immensely important that young players in the dressing rooms are allowed to feel comfortable as it helps them flourish in the long run. Learning from the likes of AB de Villiers and Kohli will only help improve his future in the game.
With the current incumbents in the regular Indian squad being rested it will present Chahal with the opportunity to cement a place in the squad on a more permanent basis. He has enjoyed a very successful competition with RCB and certainly deserves this opportunity to test himself on the International stage. Whilst Zimbabwe may not offer the sternest of tests, it is his opportunity to show the selectors what he is capable of doing – and hopefully he will grasp it.
By Andy Hunter