India announced a 15-member squad for the T20 World Cup which had five spinners in Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel, mystery spinner Varun Chakravarthy, Ravichandran Ashwin and Rahul Chahar the leggie. The most notable omission from the squad announced was that of Yuzvendra Chahal - who has been main spinner since 2017 Champions Trophy.
The reason for Chahal not selected was that in the first leg of the IPL in India, Chahal had picked up four wickets in seven games at an average of 47. Chetan Sharma, Chairman of selectors had said they wanted a leg spinner who can bowl at a quicker speed and the selectors felt Rahul Chahar was that spinner who had picked 11 wickets in the IPL at an average of 18.36.
In hindsight, it was a fair call - keeping in mind the current form but Chahal has been Virat Kohli’s go to man in the white ball format since last four years - both for India and for his franchise Royal Challengers Bangalore. He has played 49 games for India to pick up 63 wickets and overall has a wealth of experience of playing more than 110 IPL matches and picked up 132 wickets.
His best season was last year in UAE, where he picked up 21 wickets and was the standout bowler for Royal Challengers Bangalore. This year too in the UAE leg, Chahal has been exception with the ball for RCB and has picked up seven wickets at an average of just 11.41 and an economy of 5.57 whereas Rahul Chahar has taken just two wickets in four games - at an average of 58 and economy of 7.73.
Chahal is a streetsmart operator and gets Kohli the breakthrough most of the time. He is different from Chahar, slower through the air and more willing to flight the ball and is not afraid for going for runs to pick wickets. That’s what shows he has a big heart and does not mind going for runs for the sake of picking wickets. History says leg spinners are matchwinners, they might go for runs but get you crucial wickets - which is the key to slow down the run-rate and win matches.
Indian selectors decided to go for a Chahar as he is quicker like Rashid Khan but I have always believed experience is better than sheer talent and leaving Chahal out of the T20 World Cup is a blunder they might regret.
- Cricket enthusiast and businessman Anis Sajan is Vice Chairman of Danube Group