Rahul Chahar returns to top fettle

Chahar has redicovered his mojo in the second half of the ongoing IPL season. (Source: IPL)

Between IPL 2019 and IPL 2022, Rahul Chahar established himself as one of the most reliable wrist-spinners in the league, bagging a total of 55 wickets. What set him apart was his remarkable consistency, consistently claiming at least 13 wickets in each of those four seasons, showcasing his reliability as a wicket-taking option.

However, his fortunes took a downturn in IPL 2023, where he managed only eight wickets throughout the tournament. With an average of 48.1, Chahar had the poorest performance among all leg-spinners who bowled at least 30 overs, contributing to his team, Punjab Kings’ disappointing eighth-place finish.

Despite an indifferent 2023 Syed Mushtaq Ali campaign, where he secured six wickets in five matches, PBKS decided to retain Chahar. However, he faced a tough start to the IPL 2024 season, struggling with an economy rate of 11.4 in his first three games.

Following the rough patch, Chahar had to wait nearly a month for his next opportunity to play. Upon his return to the playing XI, he produced figures of 1/33 against KKR. In the subsequent match, he displayed his prowess, claiming two wickets while conceding only 16 runs in his four overs. The highlight of his spell was bowling the penultimate over against the legendary MS Dhoni. Chahar conceded just three runs in that over, which must have boosted his confidence a lot.

With confidence soaring, Chahar faced the same opposition, Chennai Super Kings, just three days later and once again played a pivotal role for his team. In his first delivery, he induced an edge from Ruturaj Gaikwad to the ‘keeper. Following that, a cleverly disguised googly dismissed Shivam Dube for a duck. Aware of Dube’s proficiency against spin, Chahar opted to shorten his length, exposing the southpaw’s vulnerability. It appeared that Chahar had studied the strengths of two of CSK’s top batters this season, Gaikwad and Dube.

In the latter stages of the innings, he outsmarted Mitchell Santner to secure his best figures of the season; 3/23 from four overs. The Dharamsala pitch offered assistance to spinners, and Chahar capitalised on that. He varied his lines and lengths effectively, bowled to his field and executed his plans against the batters.

The latter half of the season has proven fruitful for Chahar, as he appears to have regained his form. If his performance in Chennai was impressive, his spell in Dharamsala was truly outstanding.