With Rahul Chahar and Varun Chakravarthy breathing down his neck, Yuzvendra Chahal has been under pressure of late. The legspinner doesn't have great numbers in white-ball cricket for India since 2019 and still has a point to prove ahead of this year's T20 World Cup.
From 2016 to 2018, Chahal took 44 wickets in 27 T20Is at an economy rate of 7.8 and a strike rate of 14.4. However, the 31-year-old has claimed only 19 wickets in 22 T20Is since 2019. He has an economy of almost 9 and a strike rate of 27.2 in this time period.
Chahal said he worked hard on his bowling during the covid-enforced lockdown and has also been talking to bowling coaches Bharat Arun and Paras Mhambrey, as well as India's head coach for the Sri Lanka tour - Rahul Dravid.
"When I was not playing, I was working with my bowling coach, about where I should bowl, why I was not able to perform in a couple of matches. During the lockdown, I did single-wicket bowling, practiced with my friends," said Chahal.
"I didn't want to make too many changes. I thought about which lines I should focus on, whether to go wider or go stump to stump. I sat with Arun sir, there is Paras sir here and Rahul sir, so I sat with them, saw videos to see what am I missing? I have been doing well, but it was not happening in a couple of matches.
"During the lockdown, before this tour, I couldn't really go much to cricket grounds due to Covid-19 restrictions. But the three-four sessions I got in my hometown, I went and practiced. Jayant Yadav was there, I've been playing with him since childhood, so we practiced together. I spoke to him also, and things started from there. The main thing was that the more confident I can be while bowling, the better I will be able to bowl."
However, things have gone well for Chahal so far on this tour. The legspinner took five wickets in two ODIs and then returned with impressive figures of 1/19 in the first T20I. Chahal knocked over Dhananjaya de Silva and kept the Sri Lankan batsmen in check. Charith Asalanka, who smashed 44 off 26 deliveries, could only manage nine off 12 deliveries from Chahal.
"My job was to control the middle-over and I am very happy I did that. The end I was bowling from, the leg-side there was shorter and they were trying to hit me there. So to the right-handers I didn't bowl too many googlies because I didn't want to give away boundaries.
"I had it in my mind that the more dots I bowl, the pressure can build up at the other end too. Even if I don't get a wicket, my bowling partner from the other end can bowl with a little more freedom.
"If I had gone for a wicket or tried a bit much, and conceded a six or a four, then automatically the pressure would've been on us because we didn't have a very big total. I bowled more gogglies to the lefties because the leg side for them was longer. So I mixed it up that way."