A lot of considerations go into the selection of a player. Although it is a thankless job for the five national selectors to finalise their choice of players on the borderline, they do have the benefit of inputs from the captain, coaches, managers and whoever they talk to in the cricketing circles. There are exceptional cases though, wherein a player — nay even a newcomer — demands the approving nod from the selectors.
Tweaker Yuzvendra Chahal has done so; he’s been quite visible in the ongoing IPL by taking 19 wickets at 17.05 in 11 matches for Royal Challengers Bangalore. In hindsight, the 25-year-old wrist spinner would feel pleased that the change, from Mumbai Indians (2012-13) to Royal Challengers, happened in his second IPL season (2013-14).
Chahal has every right to believe that he’s been given the chance based on his merit. He has had two exceptional IPL seasons, which is an integral part of the BCCI’s domestic calendar. But Chahal would also be thankful to skipper Virat Kohli, who has given him enough opportunities (14 matches in 2013-14, 15 matches in 2014-15 and 11 matches in 2015-16) in which he has collected 54 wickets at 21.46 (with a strike rate of 16.13).
All the good things have happened to Chahal at RCB. He made a solitary match appearance for Mumbai Indians when he bowled four overs against Kolkata Knight Riders at the Eden Gardens and conceded 34 runs without taking a wicket. He also played six Champions League matches for Mumbai Indians in 2011.
As a matter of fact, the selectors have taken notice of the progress the rookie leg-spinner has made in the IPL alone. The RCB has so far played 26 spinners in the IPL and Chahal has already taken the top spot with 54 wickets, nine ahead of Anil Kumble’s 45. Chahal has been playing for Haryana since 2009 and the State’s spin attack revolves around the two leg-spinners, Amit Mishra and Chahal, and the off-spinner, Jayant Yadav. The trio took 14 wickets (Mishra 8, Chahal 5 and Yadav 1) in six matches in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy Twenty20 tournament this season.
Haryana did not qualify for the Super League finishing last in Group 'A' that had seven teams in the preliminary league. Yadav had marginally better figures in the 50-over Vijay Hazare tournament, taking eight wickets at 15.62 in six matches, while Chahal had four at 45.25 from five matches.
The opportunities for Chahal and thereby the success rate also depended on Kohli's decision to utilise him in the rough and tumble of IPL cricket.
He was not chosen for three matches and in the second match, Delhi Daredevils opener Quinton de Kock went berserk and did not allow any bowler to settle down. So Chahal, too, finished at 2.1-0-23-0. Most captains have faith in their leg-spinners, and Kohli showed it by preferring Chahal over left-arm spinner Iqbal Abdulla, off-spinner Parvez Rasool and the South African 'chinaman' bowler Tabraiz Shamsi.
Finger spinners more prolific in Harare
The Indian skipper for the ODI and Twenty20 series in Zimbabwe, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, will have three spinners at his command: left-arm spinner Axar Patel, off-spinner Yadav (he’s also a conventional-type of batsman), and Chahal. In recent times, Pakistan’s Yasir Shah, New Zealand’s Ish Sodhi, South Africa’s Imran Tahir, Zimbabwe's Graeme Cremer and even Australia’s Steve Smith have exploited the conditions in ODIs at Harare where India will play all six matches (3 ODIs and 3 Twenty20) in June.
But the finger spinners, led by Zimbabwean off-spinner John Nyumbu (11 matches, 12 wickets), have taken more (91 wickets as against 29 by wrist spinners) from January 1, 2014 at the Harare venue.
During India’s tour of Zimbabwe in July 2015, Axar Patel took five wickets in three ODI matches and Harbhajan Singh four in three at the same venue. Axar was also successful in the Twenty20 played at the same venue; he sent down 48 balls, conceded 40 runs and took four wickets. Clearly, Axar’s success at Harare last year has been taken into account by the national selectors.
Chahal will get his chance in Zimbabwe and he can start thinking of competing for a place in the longer format with his Haryana teammate, Mishra. With India set to play 13 Tests at home, from August to February-March 2017 (one-off Test against Bangladesh, three against New Zealand, five against England and four against Australia), and also five ODIs each against New Zealand and Australia, the selectors will look at various options. The chairman of the selection committee, Sandeep Patil, has already said they are looking for variety.