Bowling first over in the 1st T20I at Thiruvananthapuram against South Africa, the seamer Deepak Chahar bowled a string of outswingers to South African captain Temba Bavuma before slipping in a booming inswinger to shatter his stumps on the last ball. The manner in which the batter set up the batsman showed his evolution as a bowler.
In the next over, the left-arm seamer Arshdeep Singh also swung into action and nipped out three South African batsmen – Quinton de Kock, Rilee Rossouw and David Miller – in the over. While de Kock chopped the ball onto his stumps, Rossouw fell to a splendid outswinger and was caught behind.
But the ball which castled Miller nick-and-crop is the one which Arshdeep will always remember. Miller was expecting the ball to swerve away but was left utterly bamboozled by a piquant in-dipper.
The bracing burst by these two seamers left South Africa reeling at 9-5, a situation from which they never recovered and lost the match.
Ace pacer Jasprit Bumrah had pulled out just before the match because of back problem. The experienced Bhuvneshwar Kumar was also absent. In the absence of two of their most experienced bowlers, the task for the young seamers was stiff but they rose marvelously to the occasion and left a mark.
It is almost certain now that Bumrah might not be available for the T20 World Cup because of the injury. Bhuvi is going through a rough patch and is no longer the bowler he once was. On top of that, India’s death-overs bowling has been appalling of late and is a major concern.
The first-rate performance of Chahar and Arshdeep is like a whiff of fresh air for the Indian team. Chahar is making a comeback after injury and he gave a fine demonstration that the hiatus hasn’t dulled his skills or exuberance. Before the injury, he had established himself as a key player in the T20 format and was making handy contributions.
Chahar also has the ability to swing his bat and knock off quick runs when required. This lends much-needed strength to India’s lower middle-order which is feeble. At present, he’s among the reserves for the T20 World Cup but can soon be inducted into the 15-member squad.
Arshdeep has been in the eye of the storm recently for the unwarranted attacks he copped after India lost the Asia Cup match against Pakistan. But he has acquitted himself nicely in his short career. In the 12 T20Is he has played, the seamer has chalked up 17 scalps with an economy-rate under 8.
He does not have scorching pace but has the ability to swing the ball both ways with appreciable control. He has also done decently in the death-overs but can improve in this arena. His fielding is subpar which is a handicap.
Another seamer Harshal Patel has also returned after an injury and is slowly getting into the groove. On his day, Harshal can be a tough customer to negotiate owing to his cracking slow balls which dip sharply on batters. But he can also leak runs in spades on days he’s off-colour.
The T20 World Cup is taking place in Australia where pitches largely assist pacers. India’s fortunes in the marquee tournament will massively depend on how their seamers perform.
The progression of Chahar and Arshdeep is an encouraging sign for India. The World Cup will be their baptism of fire. If they come off with flying colours, their reputation and renown will soar manifold.