IPL 2021: Relive Rahul Chahar’s journey from lanes of Rajasthan to becoming Mumbai Indians’ premier spinner

IPL 2021: Relive Rahul Chahar's journey from lanes of Rajasthan to becoming Mumbai Indians' premier spinner
IPL 2021: Relive Rahul Chahar's journey from lanes of Rajasthan to becoming Mumbai Indians' premier spinner

IPL 2021: Relive Rahul Chahar’s journey from lanes of Rajasthan to becoming Mumbai Indians’ premier spinner: First, it was his great economy rate at the Wankhede. Next, it was about making the three IPL battlegrounds in UAE his own. And then, he owned it in MA Chidambaram Stadium. Yes, we’re talking about Rahul Chahar’s giant strides in the Mumbai Indians team.

However, things didn’t just fall into place for this young leggie. There are many twists and turns to his story, much like his web-spinning game around the batters he faces.

Training with family

Rahul started training under his uncle Lokendra Chahar, Deepak Chahar’s father and trainer. Both bowlers started off as pacers, but after identifying Rahul’s ability to spin, his uncle decided to let him explore that option and gave him ample tips and tricks about becoming a leg spinner.

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The brothers practiced together as children, and represent Rajasthan in the domestic cricket circuit. They also featured in the Rising Pune Supergiants squad in 2017 together.

The unforeseen heartbreak

For 17-year-old Rahul Chahar, the tone was set for the upcoming 2017 U-19 World Cup. He seemed super upbeat about playing in that tournament. “For now, I’m focused at the U19 World Cup next year and want to do well there, usse IPL me bhi chances badhengi,” the hopeful youngster had said.

 

However, that call-up never came.

When BCCI announced the names, he was all but a standby player, left heartbroken at not even being included in a tournament he was putting all his heart into.

His confidence was not based on nothing. The then teenager had made his First Class debut, playing for Rajasthan against Odisha in November 2016. A few months later, he got to share a dressing room with some of the world’s biggest cricketers in the Rising Pune Supergiants camp.

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There, Rahul picked up the wickets of Hashim Amla and Brendon McCullum in the three matches he played. The team also had Imran Tahir – a seasoned leggie himself, who promptly responded to Rahul whenever the latter bombarded him with questions, even after the IPL.

Further, he had travelled with the India U-19 team on a tour to England. He played brilliantly, scalping 10 wickets in only four One Day games. Naturally, he was left dumbfounded and extremely hurt by the big omission.

Rahul Dravid’s words and finding hope

His coach and mentor from the U-19 camp, Rahul Dravid, had some words of encouragement for Rahul after this incident. “Dravid sir had called me even before the team was announced and said I was not in it. He extended his apology and explained to me that he couldn’t do anything about it as selectors were not in favour of me. Sir asked me to be confident and trust in myself,” he said.

The youngster was also aware that being a wrist spinner, he had a distinct advantage. Explaining it, he said, “Nowadays, wrist-spin is appreciated a lot. Players of other countries find it hard to read. That’s why I was effective during the England tour.”

“With India performing well with leg spinners, I think I need to do my best for Mumbai Indians. Though the Wankhede wicket is flat, it has bounce. With my height, I can use it to my advantage. It will be a good platform to showcase my talent and come in the national scheme of things”Donning the armour of grit and with the light of optimism in his heart, Rahul Chahar set out to continue his cricketing journey with his eyes on the bigger things.

In Mumbai Indians through the years

The Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy in 2018 saw Rahul pick up 6 wickets in 4 games at an applaudable economy rate of 6.38. This performance was instrumental in the IPL auction, where, at 1.9 Cr, this uncapped Indian was fought for and finally bought by the Mumbai Indians.

In IPL 2018, however, Rahul did not play a single match. Come 2019, and the confidence he oozed was everything! Two back-to-back three-wicket hauls against Rajasthan Royals and Delhi Capitals was enough to tell the world what this boy was capable of. He played 13 out of the 16 games for MI and ended with 13 wickets and an economy of 6.55.

This was the season that made everyone sit up and take notice of this new boy in Blue and Gold. And this is when the team also decided that he was adept enough to take on responsibility of being MI’s frontline spinner now.

Come 2020, come UAE. Bigger grounds and relatively more favourable conditions for Rahul meant that he had to make the most of it. This is where he transitioned from being that economical bowler in the middle overs to striking and taking wickets at any point in the game.

Numbers may say he took 15 wickets in 15 games in 2020, but his contribution to the team’s title defense was so much more than what meets the eye. He went from safe mode to attacking mode, made some changes in his approach to the game, and attacked top-quality batters throughout the series.

 

In 2021, an even matured Rahul came to the fore. In a series of low-scoring, total-defending games in Chennai, breakthroughs became his second name. His 4/27 against KKR, his best figures in IPL so far, came in an innings where he almost single-handedly orchestrated a come-from-behind win for MI.

In the 7 games played in 2021, Chahar bagged 11 wickets at a brilliant strike rate of 15.27! While the opposition came prepared to beat the lethal duo of Bumrah and Boult, Chahar came out of the syllabus. This kind of wrist spinner, the teams weren’t ready for!

A call for the Indian Blues

After a notice-worthy 2019 IPL season with Mumbai Indians, Rahul got his Indian cricket team call-up for the India tour of West Indies in August 2019. On debut, his numbers were 3-0-27-1.

For still being at the nascent stage of his international career, this man has done a lot of work on his gameplay. He understands the mind games that go behind every match, to counter prepare for batsmen who might be ready for him, and more.

Being a wrist spinner, and with age on his side, the future shines bright for the young man. He is not just someone who can turn the ball well. He can spin a web, trap the batters, and win battles for his team. He is the next big player batters must be wary of, and he will arrive very, very soon!