Rahul Chahar
Rahul Chahar Image Credit: AP

Dubai: Zaheer Khan, the legendary Indian pacer, is not surprised at Deepak Chahar’s sensational bowling performance in the deciding T20 International against Bangladesh on Sunday.

In an exclusive interview with Gulf News, the erstwhile leader of Indian pace attack said he was impressed with Chahar’s ability to strike with the old ball during his spell of six wickets for seven runs in Nagpur — the best-ever figures by any bowler in the shortest format — which included a hat-trick. “Chahar is a seasoned campaigner having played in the IPL for a while and been playing a key role with his franchise (Chennai Super Kings) and went on to show the confidence at the international level too. What I was happy to see in Nagpur is that he was used in a different fashion. He bowled with a relatively old ball than the usual new ball. What was exciting about his performance against Bangladesh is that he was able to adapt his bowling by adjusting to a different kind of a role expected of him. Adding that versatility is something that I am delighted to see in him,” said Zaheer, who will spearhead the Delhi Bulls pace attack in the Aldar Properties Abu Dhabi T10 tournament later this week.

Chahar followed up his showing with another hat-trick in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy for Rajasthan against Vidarbha on Tuesday.

Zaheer is delighted that Indian pacers’ bunch are respected around the world now. When asked what led to this transformation from being a country, which only produced spinners in the past, he said: “The talent pool, which we have is exciting news for Indian cricket. The infrastructure for cricket, right from the under-16 to under-19 level, has improved a lot over the years. The knowledge is accessible to all the young cricketers and above all a platform like the IPL has also played a huge role where you rub shoulders with experienced players and learn on what is required to be the best at the international level.”

Asked about the admiration that Jasprit Bumrah enjoys, Zaheer said: “Bumrah is a keen learner. Starting from the shorter format, he has become a serious threat at the international level. He is an exceptional talent, a true match-winner and he is enjoying the responsibility on him. With responsibility we have seen a different side of Bumrah. He is showing that maturity and taking that pressure of performance very well.”

Expanding on his art, Zaheer said he wants fast bowlers to discover different types of deliveries. As someone who discovered the knuckle ball and used it to great effect for India’s triumph in the 2011 ICC Cricket World Cup to emerge as the leading wicket-taker, Zaheer said: “There are many deliveries to be discovered. Batsmen are trying new kinds of shots, so similarly, bowlers should also come up with new deliveries, which will make it tougher for the batsmen to hit.”

The knuckle ball that Khan introduced was used effectively by Jofra Archer during the 2019 World Cup and among others who use it regularly are India’s Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Australia’s Andrew Tye. Khan then went on to explain how he discovered the knuckle ball. “Knuckle ball is something, which I take a lot of pride in. It worked very effectively during the 2011 World Cup as that was the time I started using it. I wish I had started using that delivery much earlier in my career.

“I saw someone once bowl such a delivery, though not exactly the way I used to bowl, that gave me the trigger. What I liked about the knuckle ball is the fact that the seam comes straight and for a batsman, it is very difficult to pick. While bowling cutters, your wrist gives away that fraction of a second extra for the batsman to make up his mind, but with knuckle ball it changes very subtly and pace variations are huge. This delivery worked for me but unfortunately, I could use it only for a very short time in my career.”