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CENTURION: Wiry as his frame might be, Yuzvendra Chahal knows how to throw his weight around. Give him the white ball on a measured wicket and he’ll add all the meat to the bone.
There’s a unique sense of confidence to Chahal’s sauntering – into the ground, out of the ground, inside a television studio, with teammates, around fans. His build is in absolute mismatch with the assertiveness he carries along inside him. It’s the quality that fits in perfectly with that of skipper Virat Kohli.
It’s this quality, pegged with an uncanny ability to control the flight of his delivery and with an unwavering line, that has allowed him to give the South Africans some sleepless nights here.
His and Yadav’s are the two names most discussed in the South African camp, whether they’re playing, strategizing, discussing or even answering questions. “Chahal and Yadav” or “Yadav and Chahal” has been the opening for most lines.
In Durban, it was Yadav who trapped the hosts in India’s six-wicket win. In Centurion, Chahal registered India’s third best haul for a spinner overseas and the best on South African soil – 5-22 – to hand India a massive win.
“I go for wickets, I flight the ball. I know it can go for six too, but when your captain and your team back you, it gives you the confidence to do it,” says Chahal when asked to talk about what he counts as his strengths.
And is it easy to bowl for wickets after going for runs? “This is a routine for me. In IPL I have gone for 40 runs in 4 overs, even then I should feel that I have been hit on good balls. It shouldn’t be that I am bowling to escape cheaply. That is my strength, and that is why I am in the team,” he adds.
It’s the last of those lines that says a lot about him and his present role in the side – “That’s why I’m in the team”.
It’s the perfect insight into what the team management expects from him and what he’s learnt of that by now.
Here in South Africa, where the wickets in ODIs so far have been relatively slow, he and Yadav are making hay. There’s a lot of sun too and that’s helping the spinners well.
“Playing on flat tracks, you have to vary your pace. You cannot bowl at one pace. There is bounce available on these pitches. If you bowl fast, the ball won’t turn and it will come on to the bat. That’s why Kuldeep and I vary our pace,” says Chahal.
Assessing conditions well too is his forte. “Here you won’t get the turn you get in India. The ball won’t turn from under the bat. You have to keep the ball away from the bat so that it gets time to turn. You can then use the bounce on these pitches. For batsmen who don’t use their feet, you have to keep the ball away from them. Kuldeep and I decided to bowl either right up or back of a length,” says Chahal.