Team India have struggled for lower-order batting depth for years in ODI cricket, but Deepak Chahar’s run-a-ball 84-run partnership with Bhuvneshwar Kumar for the eighth wicket must have impressed even Virat Kohli & Co. He scored an unbeaten 69 to guide the team to memorable victory in the second ODI against Sri Lanka after they had lost seven wickets for under 200.

 

He had also picked up two wickets in the first innings, to help restrict the hosts to a modest total, and was awarded the man of the match trophy for his versatility. This all-round showcase could put him well in contention for a place in the senior team ahead of the likes of Hardik Pandya (who hasn’t bowled 10 overs in an innings consistently, for a long time) or even Mohammed Shami and Kumar (who haven’t done enough with the bat lower down the order).

 

“Only one thing was going on in my mind: this is the kind of innings you dream of, when you start playing cricket and start batting. One day I’ll bat for India — bat at 7, 8 maybe 9 — and finish the match. No better way to win the match for the country,” he said in the post-match presentation.

“Rahul [Dravid] sir told me to play all the balls. I’ve played a few innings with India A and I think he has belief in me. He told me he thinks I’m good enough to be a number seven. He has belief in me. When we came under 50 is when I believed we can win. Before that it was ball by ball. I took some risks after.”

 

The most remarkable thing about Chahar’s innings was not the quantum of his score, wrote ESPN Cricinfo’s Saurabh Somani. It was not that he went from 2 off 18, to 23 off 45, to his eventual score of 69* off 82. It was how he dealt with the 48th over of the chase, when Wanindu Hasaranga was brought back.

Chahar faced the last four balls of the over, with 15 required from 16 balls, and didn’t try to score off any of them. With the match in its final stages, the kind of batter who can play out a threatening bowler when practically a run a ball is needed is not often found at No.8.

 

“The odds were low but we knew that he’s batting well in the nets. His presence of mind, his calculation – in the last four overs they didn’t take on the legspinner because at the time he was lethal,” even Shikhar Dhawan was full of praise of Chahar’s game awareness.

With not too many List A batting accolades on his CV before this game, Chahar’s only comparable outing with the bat in public eye was his 20-ball 39 in the IPL. It came in a similar situation for Chennai Super Kings against Kings XI Punjab in 2018, when MS Dhoni had promoted him up the order.

 

Team India’s lower order has often collapsed when put under the cosh in the recent past. It can mostly be attributed to the lack of allround capabilities among the primary bowlers like Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Yuzhvendra Chahl et al. In fact, this lack of batting depth was also on show in the World Test Championship final that India lost to New Zealand recently.

 

But with the rise of the next-gen Indian cricketer via the Shardul Thakurs and Krunal Pandyas and Washington Sundars, the time could be ripe for Chahar to also get a nod for the senior squad, given he excels in his primary trade consistently.

Image credits: Twitter/BCCI