Leg spinner Rahul Chahar’s rise to becoming the calm and collected threat to the opposition has not come easily. He has faced his fair share of setbacks, but worked on his all-round skills to deliver consistently whenever he was given a chance.
Chahar has been a promising bowler since his teenage years. At 17 years of age, he toured England for an U19 tournament, picking up 10 wickets in four One Day International matches, including a spell of 4/33 in a match-winning cause.
Given his good form, his ability to perform on foreign soil, and the fact that a lot of players were finding it difficult to read leg spin, Chahar was confident about being selected in the 2018 U19 World Cup. “For now, I’m focussed at the U19 World Cup next year and want to do well there, usse IPL ki chances badhegi,” a hopeful Chahar had reportedly said.
However, even before the team was announced, he got a call from the coach, Rahul Dravid, that he was, unfortunately, not drafted into the team and was merely a standby player. With words of encouragement from the former Indian captain, he did not allow his heartbreak to dictate his further actions.
Today, five years after his first Indian Premier League debut and two teams later, he has come a long way but still cherishes the opportunity to be under the tutelage of Anil Kumble, a legendary leg spinner himself, in the Punjab Kings camp.
Sharing the dressing room with the iconic Anil Kumble
Chahar admitted to looking forward to meeting his childhood idol as soon as he realised he had become a part of the Sadda Squad. In an exclusive interview with the Punjab Kings, he opened up about his reverence for Kumble and learning the nuances of the art from him.
“All I was thinking of when I was picked by Punjab was Anil Kumble sir. He's been my idol since I was a kid. If you look at our history he's been the only leg spinner in the Indian team who has taken so many wickets. So, the first thing I thought was I'll try to learn as much as I can from him,” the leggie from Rajasthan expressed with a twinkle in his eyes.
Bonding with the team and the captain
Chahar has also gotten quite comfortable with the atmosphere at Punjab and gelled in quickly. Since he has been around the domestic cricket circuit for a while now, his rivals from across states are his friends here in the Punjab Kings’ camp.
“I'm feeling really good. The atmosphere is great. I know quite a few players. I've played U-19 with them so we’ve bonded well with each other. We're having fun. I've played with Arsh several times. You all know how he is. He's fun and keeps everyone engaged,” he said.
Going further, captain Mayank Agarwal and Chahar have played together for India A before, and Agarwal did not waste time in making Chahar feel welcome and positive at his new IPL home. “I know him pretty well since we've played together a lot for India A in the last 3-4 years. He's very knowledgeable and hopefully we'll all get together and do well,” Chahar said.
He also shared his thoughts about Agarwal as a leader. “Mayank, as a captain, as far as I know is very positive. He's shown a lot of confidence, whether it's in me or about the tournament,” he smiled.
Being a lucky charm
Success has followed Rahul Chahar in the Indian Premier League since his first season. When he made his debut for the Rising Pune Supergiants in 2017, the team played the final. Next year, he joined the Mumbai Indians and has picked up two trophies in the four-year stint.
Chahar joked about this too, saying, “Previously, wherever I've been, I’ve won a title. When I was in Pune I played a final. When I was in Mumbai we won the league twice, and now it's Punjab's turn hopefully.” Who knows, he might be the lucky charm the Kings are looking for!
He has his eyes set on the trophy. At the post-match press conference after Punjab’s win against Bangalore, he spoke about the impressive playing XI the team boasts of, and the belief to win. Chahar reiterated the same, saying, “Like I said, we'll try to win and if you take a look at our playing XI combination, it looks magnificent. So if God wills, we will do well this time on.”
Rahul Chahar, tumhare muh mein ghee-shakkar!