Deepak Chahar is India’s frontline pacer in the shorter format of the game. While his variations with the white ball have often put the batsmen from the rival teams under pressure, Chahar has worked hard on his all-round abilities to emerge as a complete cricketer.

And that was evident on Tuesday, when he smashed an unbeaten 69 off 82 deliveries against Sri Lanka to help India bag the ODI series in Colombo. He also grabbed a couple of wickets earlier to be adjudged as the player of the match.

Chasing a stiff total of 276, India lost seven wickets for 193 when Chahar stitched the match-winning partnership with Bhuvnshwar Kumar to guide the team home. By his own admission, it was an uphill task to chase the total, but the 28-year-old kept his cool and approached the game smartly.

“When I was batting with Krunal (Pandya), my role was to rotate the strike. But when Bhuvi walked in, I thought whether to go for the shots or play (natural) game. As Bhuvi got accustomed, it gave us confidence and that helped me to plan my innings,” Chahar said on Thursday, on the eve of the final ODI.

While the team was impressed with the way he sealed the deal, coach Rahul Dravid, too, lauded Chahar for pacing his innings well. “I have toured with Rahul Sir for several A tours, where I had to bat in tricky situations, so he knows about my skills. And it is always a huge motivation, when the coach backs you and shows faith in you,” he said.

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The Indian team will not have any other limited-overs series before the T20 World Cup – which begins in the UAE on October 17 – and that’s why, the ongoing series against India is extremely important for all the contenders. Chahar, too, has set his targets.

“The selection is not in my hands. But my goal is to perform with the bat and the ball every time I get an opportunity. I am fortunate to have got the opportunity to improve my batting, because I was waiting for this moment for a long time. Over the last couple of years, I have hardly got a chance to bat, so when a chance finally came my way, I was happy that I could convert  it (to a big score),” Chahar said.

The Dhoni influence and praise from Kohli

The innings against Sri Lanka was Chahar’s first half-century in international cricket – the last time he scored fifty-plus run was in a List A game against Delhi in 2019 – and Chahar admitted that he drew inspiration from former India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who is also his skipper in the Chennai Super Kings.

“Not just CSK, while growing up, we have all seen how he (takes the match close). Every time we speak, he tells me that it is in your hands to take the game till the end and if you can do that, then you get some overs and that makes the match thrilling. So, that was the whole idea – to take the match till the last over,” Chahar said.

While he is happy to have played his role in helping India win, Chahar also received text messages from Virat Kohli – who is currently in Durham with the Test team.

“It was a good feeling, I received so many messages from coaches and even Virat bhaiya messaged saying “well played”. You feel good when so many top players and coaches congratulate you for your feats,” Chahar said.

Over the last couple of days, the entire country is busy discussing his innings, but Chahar clarified that he has also worked on his bowling variation and is reaping benefits.

“If you do not have variations in T20s, the batsman will go after you. So, it is important to do that. Swing depends on the condition and that’s not always in our control, but variation is the key and I have worked on that.”