A sensational start to injuries and a comeback – the Deepak Chahar story

The Rajasthan and CSK bowler’s successful outing in the IPL has been rewarded with a place in India’s T20 squad for the England tour as a replacement for the injured Jasprit Bumrah.

Deepak Chahar's His consistent performance in the IPL, where he scalped 10 wickets for CSK, was not only noticed, but also helped him inch closer to a national team call-up.   -  AFP

Tours of England have turned lucky for pacers from Rajasthan. The last time India toured England in 2014, the state’s pace ace, Pankaj Singh, was named in the Test side. It’s a different story that the long-serving member of Rajasthan cricket could not feature in more than two Tests for the country.

Four seasons later, as India gears up for its long series against England, Deepak Chahar – another youngster from Rajasthan – has been named in India’s T20 squad as a replacement for the injured Jasprit Bumrah.

The 25-year-old had a successful outing in the Indian Premier League (IPL) this season – scalping 10 wickets for the Chennai Super Kings. His consistent performance was not only noticed, but also helped him inch closer to a national team call-up.

The reward came soon as he was named in the India A squad for the England tour. In five outings, Chahar took 13 wickets, strengthening his cause.

And on Sunday, his dreams finally came true.

Right from the start, Chahar’s career has been quite cinematic. From a meteoric rise to a steep fall and then having to stage a comeback – the youngster has seen it all in the last few years.

Playing for Rajasthan, Chahar got off to a rollicking start as he hit the headlines on his Ranji Trophy debut, picking up eight wickets for 10 runs in the first innings against Hyderabad and bundling the team out for 21 – the lowest-ever team score in a Ranji Trophy outing.

That was in November 2010.

While Chahar emerged as one of the best performers of the tournament that year, he soon lost the plot. Frequent injuries saw the young gun missing out on first-class experience. “Those days were difficult. But in the last few years, I have had too many injuries, so I know how to come back. Earlier, the injury woes would upset me, but now I know how to deal with them. The mind works differently in those times,” Chahar had told Sportstar before flying out to England.

The dark days have taught Chahar how to search a ray of hope. “When I get injured, I obviously think what is next and when would I come back. Interestingly, this time when I picked up the injury during the IPL, I told the physio that it would take two weeks to recover. Next day, when I went for the MRI, it was revealed that it would indeed take two weeks to recover. So, I exactly know how to bounce back,” he had said with a smile.

 

Even Pankaj Singh, who has seen Chahar from the closest quarters, admits that the determination has kept the Rajasthan bowler going. “The major thing for a cricketer is his form. He has been in good form recently – in the first class, IPL and during India A’s tour to England. He has got the break at the right time,” Singh says.

Having led Rajasthan for a fairly long time, Singh has seen how Chahar has taken both success and failure in his stride. “The best thing about Deepak is that he is positive and very hard-working. Even when he was out of form or injured, he used the time. He has taken the challenge and that hard work has paid off,” says Singh, a seasoned campaigner for Rajasthan who made his debut for the team in 2004.

Born in Agra, Chahar played divisional cricket in Hanumangarh in north Rajasthan under the watchful eyes of seasoned coach Navendu Tyagi. And as his ward finally breaks into the Indian team, Tyagi is a happy man. “Initially when he started, his speed would be around 128km per hour, but he had genuine swing. Over the years, he has battled all the odds to improve on his speed and has also mastered the art of reverse swing,” Tyagi says.

Still in touch with his old coach, Chahar has made it a point to take a tip or two from him. “We spoke some time last week and he sounded confident. He has worked really hard and that is slowly paying off,” Tyagi says.

When Chahar made all heads turn during his stint with CSK this year, his first Ranji Trophy skipper and former India batsman Hrishikesh Kanitkar had stressed on a very crucial point. Kanitkar felt that bouts of injuries had actually halted Chahar’s career all this while. “He would pick up freak injuries. There would be times when you not even expect the injuries to be that grave. But Deepak has handled those phases well,” Kanitkar had said.

If consistent performance at the domestic level has been one of the factors, Chahar has also been blessed to have come closer to Mahendra Singh Dhoni. The former India captain has made it a point to give him enough confidence and the result has been evident. “There is a thing about Dhoni bhaiya which is unique. He grooms the players. He used me more with the new ball. I had even asked him the reason behind not using me in the death overs, and he said that one should improve slowly. That’s something he practised on the field as well,” Chahar had admitted.

Hailing from a supportive family – his sister Malti is a model-turned-actress while younger brother Rahul is also a professional cricketer – the Chahars have always backed Deepak and that, perhaps, has helped him shun the odds.

As the news of his selection into the national team came in, the wards at the Chahar Academy – a cricketing centre run by the family in Agra – danced with joy. Like them, even the young pacer would hope for the celebrations to continue, albeit on the field.