Indian leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal struggled quite badly in the first three matches of the T20I series at home against England. His figures in these games make for rather unimpressive reading – 1 for 44, 1 for 34 and 1 for 41. Both the times he conceded over 40, India went on to lose the match. More than his figures, it was his lack of effectiveness that should worry the Indian think tank. He was torn apart by Jason Roy in the first T20I while Jos Buttler treated him with utter disdain in the third.
His variations in the limited-overs formats of the game made Chahal an asset to the team till a year or so ago. However, of late, the 30-year-old has clearly struggled with his consistency and competency. His lack of confidence is becoming increasingly evident in the number of ‘hit balls’ that have been on offer in recent Chahal spells. He had a horror series in Australia, going for 89 and 71 runs in the two ODIs he featured in. As for the T20Is, he won the man of the match with figures of 3 for 25 after coming in as concussion substitute in the first game. However, he was hammered for 51 and 41 in the next two matches.
How Yuzvendra Chahal’s career graph has dipped
Chahal’s limited-overs career can easily be split into two halves. In the first, he dominated batsmen with his ability to checkmate them (he was a chess player during his school days). In the second, he has clearly struggled to adapt and improve with the batsmen getting a grip on his variations.
In we look at his ODI record from his debut in June 2016 to February 2019, he played 40 matches and claimed 71 wickets at an excellent average of 23.83. What stood out about Chahal among the numbers was the fact that both his five-wicket hauls during this period came away from home, and that too against top nations. He bamboozled Australia with figures of 6 for 42 in Melbourne in January 2019. Chahal also ran through the South African line up, claiming 5 for 22 in Centurion in February 2018 and followed it up with 4 for 46 in Cape Town.
Chahal made his T20I debut as well in June 2016. From then till February 2019, he featured in 31 matches and grabbed 46 wickets at an excellent average of 21.13. His best performance came against England in Bengaluru in February 2017, when he picked up figures of 6 for 25. Chahal’s brilliance with the ball triggered an unbelievable collapse, as England crumbled from 119 for 2 to 127 in a chase of 203.
Taking a closer look at Chahal’s performances over the last two years, starting March 2019, the 30-year-old has played 14 one-dayers, in which he has claimed 21 wickets at a very high average of 39. His best during this period (4 for 51) came against South Africa in Southampton in the 2019 World Cup. During the same time frame, he has turned out in 17 T20I matches. Shockingly, he has claimed only 16 wickets, again at an unacceptable average of 37.68. His best during this period has been 3 for 25 in Canberra in December 2020.
Building up to the 2019 World Cup, Chahal and left-arm spinner Kuldeep Yadav were being touted as the new spin twins of India. However, both struggled to make an impact in the mega tournament, perhaps overburdened by the pressure of expectations. Cut to March 2021, while Yadav hasn’t even found a place in the team for the England T20Is despite possessing an unbelievable strike rate of 11.6, Chahal’s career is clearly at the crossroads. The problem for India is that they have invested a lot of time and energy in Chahal building up to the 2021 T20 World Cup. The big question though remains – on current form and ability can India rationally expect Chahal to deliver?