Providence, Guyana was the setting. An hour after being handed his India cap by skipper Virat Kohli, a lacklustre debut outing, until that point, turned into sheer delight for a certain lanky Rajasthan bowler.
Off the first ball of the 18th over, the white ball soared over long-on for a big maximum as Carlos Brathwaite showed his muscle. The true grit of Rahul Chahar though shone through the very next delivery as the leggie sent Brathwaite packing, caught at long-on.
In the wake of his first India appearance, Cricket.com caught up with Chahar, who is representing India Green in the Duleep Trophy, to explore a variety of topics ranging from the emotions his family went through during his debut, to how he is moulding himself as a serious prospect for the national side.
That moment witnessed the ideal culmination of a lifelong ambition for the 20-year-old, who reveals it is just the start and plenty can be expected from him in the future. “Obviously it was a dream come true moment for me. I worked for this since my childhood. But there is lot more to achieve and this is just the beginning,” said Chahar.
What made the momentous occasion even more memorable was the fact that his older cousin Deepak Chahar also played alongside him during the same game. Crediting his uncle and coach Lokendra Chahal, Rahul described the wave emotions felt by the Chahar family during the match. “It was a special feeling that my elder brother was playing for India and I was making my debut alongside him. I had repaid the faith and hard work of my tauji (father’s older brother), my coach (Deepak’s father). He dreamt of watching us play for India on TV and it finally happened,” Chahar said with a massive sense of pride resonating in his voice.
For a lad that spent the last few years in relative obscurity, 2018 proved to be a turning point as people sat up and took notice of his performances during the 2018-19 Ranji Trophy. Junior Chahar churned out an impressive return of 41 wickets at an average of 24.90 in the ten matches he played for Rajasthan. Voicing that it was the drive to play for the country that fuelled his performances on the domestic circuit, Chahar said: “When I wasn’t getting picked for the country, I told myself that I have to work harder. I realised that the problem lies within me and I decided to improve myself. I tried to work hard and do well in domestic cricket.”
That was just the start of a purple patch as he then got his long-yearned chance in the Indian Premier League with the Mumbai Indians, owing to an injury to first choice leg-spinner Mayank Markande. Chahar grabbed the opportunity with both hands dishing out dominant displays in Mumbai’s title-winning charge. Chahar was at his best in Qualifier 1 and the Final scalping 2/14 and 1/14 respectively, aiding Mumbai to an unprecedented fourth crown. He ended the tournament with a haul of 13 wickets and a superb economy of 6.55 in 13 outings. Adapting to different formats isn’t a walk in the park even for the most experienced bowlers, but for this youngster it came quite naturally. Detailing his method across formats, Chahar explained with precision that it is only with experience that a bowler can optimise his game across red and white-ball matches.
“In four-day or Tests your basics should be strong. You need to keep doing what you learnt first as a bowler. In T20Is, you need to get your basics right but you also need to be smart. In one-dayers, it’s about striking a balance between these two. With experience, you will learn to adapt to different formats.” On Thursday (29th August), Chahar was picked for India’s T20I series against South Africa in September. With conditions favouring him, this could be just the stage to step up and leave his mark on the international game. But with a host of spinners in the fray, it will leave little or no margin for error. However, Chahar divulged that he thrives on going toe-to-toe with competitors.
“Competition always teaches you something or the other. Each bowler has his own strengths. His variations are different compared to the others. So when it becomes tough to get a wicket in a game, you talk to your spin partner and take his inputs. Competition is a good thing. When you try to do better than your team-mate, you learn a lot.”
Impressive efforts from Chahar have studded a career still in its infancy and if the initial signs are anything to go by, it could only signify one blatant occurrence – plenty more cheer at the Chahar household.