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Time for India to move on from Harshal and Chahal

Last updated on 03 Jan 2023 | 08:02 PM
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Time for India to move on from Harshal and Chahal

The two have been way below-par in T20Is since the start of last year

It’s hard to believe Yuzvendra Chahal and Harshal Patel are still part of India’s T20I set-up. After a debacle in Australia, India made quite a few changes in their squad for the three-match series against Sri Lanka. The likes of Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, KL Rahul, Rishabh Pant, R Ashwin, Dinesh Karthik, and Mohammed Shami are not part of the series for different reasons, with Hardik Pandya being handed over the captaincy. But surprisingly, the management decided to stick with Harshal and Chahal who were way below-par last year.  

It’s only a matter of time before Pandya will be made India’s full-time T20I captain and the flamboyant all-rounder has already made it clear that the road to the 2024 T20 World Cup in West Indies and USA has already begun. Many were surprised when Shubman Gill, Shivam Mavi and Mukesh Kumar were picked for the Sri Lanka series but the decision of sticking with Harshal and Chahal was equally baffling.

The Men in Blue have too many options waiting in the wings, and with every game passing by, both these two are only doing more harm to their reputation. India did manage to defeat Sri Lanka by two wickets in the first T20I in Mumbai but both Harshal and Chahal once again failed to deliver. The right-arm seamer did claim two wickets but leaked 41 runs in his four overs, while Chahal was smoked for 26 runs in his two overs. And, these sorts of performances have now been happening for a while.

Alright, let’s talk about Harshal first. The 32-year-old had a dream-like IPL season in 2021 and was soon drafted into India’s T20I squad. Harshal, who is known for his variations, started his international career on a pretty decent note. The seamer operated at an economy of 8.1 and a strike rate of 13.7 in his first 12 innings but those numbers have gone way up in the last 12 innings - an economy of 10.2 and a strike rate of 23.2. He is averaging less than a wicket per match in the second half of his international career.

On Wednesday (January 3), Harshal conceded three fours and two maximums, with Sri Lankan captain Dasun Shanaka and Chamika Karunaratne taking him apart. In fact, Harshal has bowled 24 deliveries to Shanaka so far in his T20I career and has been smacked for 63 runs without dismissing him even once. 

If you compare his IPL numbers with what he has done in international cricket, you would find a vast difference. In the last two IPL seasons, Harshal has picked up 51 wickets in 30 innings at an economy of 7.9. At death overs, the seamer has operated at a strike rate of 9.6 and an economy of 9.1. However, when it comes to international cricket, Harshal has leaked runs at almost 11 runs per over at death and even his strike rate has been 15.4.

In 21 T20I innings in 2022, Harshal picked up 23 wickets but gave away runs at an economy of 9.3. He also conceded 43 sixes, which is the most for a bowler in a calendar year. Overall, amongst bowlers from Test-playing nations who bowled 50+ overs in a year, only Odean Smith had a poorer economy (9.36). So what exactly has gone wrong with his bowling?

It’s not tough to guess that those off-cutters have been his biggest strength. However, if you are not offering too much pace, the length becomes the most important aspect. If you look at his first 12 innings in international cricket, you would see that 48.2 percent of his total off-cutters were bowled on the length and only 7.1 percent were pitched short. But in his last 12 innings, Harshal has bowled only 31.6 percent of his off-cutter on the length and 18.4 percent short, in which he has leaked runs at a strike rate of 250. At that pace, you can’t bowl short and give batters ample time to adjust and play an attacking shot.

Yes, his slower ones could prove to be effective in West Indies but you can’t keep on carrying a player just on the basis of what he could do in a tournament that is almost 18 months away. It’s not just Harshal, Chahal’s form has also been a major concern for India and it’s visible on the field that captains don’t really trust him to bowl important overs. He didn’t even play a single match in the last T20 World Cup, so it was surprising to see India not pick 22-year-old Ravi Bishnoi for the Sri Lanka series.

From 2016 to 2021, Chahal featured in 50 T20Is and only thrice he didn’t complete his full quota of four overs. Meanwhile, in 21 completed T20Is since 2022, Chahal hasn’t completed his full quota on eight occasions. These numbers should be enough to tell you that captains don’t have the same faith in him as they used to before. On top of that, he doesn’t contribute in the other two departments and when it comes to his primary skills, Chahal doesn’t produce numbers like what Jasprit Bumrah does for India.

If you compare Chahal’s recent numbers with other top legspinners like Rashid Khan, Adil Rashid, Shadab Khan, Adam Zampa, and Wanindu Hasaranga, you would realise that the 32-year-old is not adding too much value to the Indian side. Chahal has an economy of 8.7 and a strike rate of 25 in his last 10 T20Is. On top of that, most of those legspinners can contribute with the bat as well. And, Chahal has an average of 2.50 with the bat in this format. 

India have some exciting options who could easily replace Chahal. Bishnoi is young and has already proven his worth in international cricket. India went with seven bowling options in the first T20I against Sri Lanka and if that remains the case, they could easily try someone like Rahul Tewatia who can easily chip in with a couple of overs and is a fearsome striker of the ball. India could easily go with three of Deepak Hooda, Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel, Washington Sundar or Bishnoi in West Indies and lengthen their batting line-up. 

India have now stepped into a new era under Pandya and maybe the time has come for them to move on from Harshal and Chahal.

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