NEW DELHI: There’s a video Deepak Chahar had posted on Instagram while quarantining in Mumbai before leaving for the ongoing Sri Lanka tour. He was batting with a baseball bat while Navdeep Saini bowled to him with a tennis ball in the backyard of the team hotel. He was absolutely nailing the front-foot cover drives.
For all his skills to move the ball both ways, Deepak’s batting ability has rather gone unnoticed until he pulled off an improbable chase against Sri Lanka on Tuesday night. That unbeaten 69 will help establish Deepak’s credentials as a useful lower-order bat.
Deepak has backed himself as an allrounder for nearly four years now. He had even listed himself as an allrounder for the IPL auctions in 2018. It was the year he was lapped up for Rs 80 lakh by Chennai Super Kings (CSK), a franchise that has provided wings to his career. It was the same auction when his younger cousin Rahul was bought for Rs 1.9 crores by Mumbai Indians.
The Chahar household was elated but the day ended with a regret too. The Chahars believed Deepak could have fetched a bigger amount.
” Humari galti thi (It was our fault). Deepak had filled the form as an allrounder. The allrounder category came late in the day. Rahul went as a bowler. Rahul’s name came early in the auction. Deepak came later. By the time Deepak’s name was called, teams had exhausted a lot of the money otherwise Deepak would have got more than Rs 2 crores,” Lokander Chahar, Deepak’s father, told TOI. “We had an idea that Rahul would draw big bids. It was not a surprise or a fluke that he went for so much,” Lokander, who has coached both Deepak and Rahul in their younger days, said.
The confidence in the Chahars came from the sterling Syed Mushtaq Ali tournament that preceded the auctions and the fact that Stephen Fleming and MS Dhoni had both liked Deepak’s improvement in the previous season at Rising Pune Supergiant.
When Deepak was trying to make a comeback into top-flight cricket after sustaining injuries after a dream debut Ranji season in 2010-11, he had decided that he had to work on his batting to add another dimension to his game. One may remember how captain Dhoni even promoted him to No. 6 in a tricky run chase against Kings XI Punjab in 2018. Deepak responded with a 20-ball 39 to set up a win.
Even as he prospered as a swing bowler in white-ball cricket for India, Deepak continued to lay emphasis on his batting. He even batted in the top order for Rajasthan in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy in 2019-20 as he captained the team into the semifinals of the tournament.
“He was batting really well for Rajasthan before he got injured after that tournament. But Deepak knows he can’t be a one-dimensional cricketer,” Lokander said.
As for his bowling, one might have seen a drop in pace in the two Lanka ODIs. But that’s a well thought-out move. In 2019, Deepak had spoken about how much his body could endure. “Deepak understands his body and limitations because nothing is natural about him. If bowling at over 140 km/hr comes to you naturally, you can bowl 13 -14 overs in a day. But if he worked on bowling long spells, he will be a 130 km/hr bowler. If he bowls quicker than that, it would require more power. Chances of getting injured are more,” Lokander explained.