The “cricket in shorts” question was a googly that the leg-spinner was not expecting after India’s three-run win over the West Indies in a last-ball thriller at the Queen’s Park Oval, which put the visitors ahead in the three-match ODI series.
March 2022 was the hottest in India since records began more than 100 years ago but notwithstanding the sweltering weather, cricket, like always, continued to be played in the country. Chahal, one of India’s leading white-ball spinners, explained why the status quo should be maintained.
“No, no. I don’t agree with that (playing in shorts). Because we have to take care of our knees whenever you slide, it’s very hard. My two knees are already gone, there are many bruises. I think full pants work well for us,” Chahal said at the post-match press conference.
As the discussion turned to Friday’s match, Chahal said bowling in tight situations in the IPL helped him immensely. And so are words of encouragement from the team management, including head coach Rahul Dravid.
“The coach always backs me. He tells me ‘Yuzi just back your strengths, we trust you’…,” Chahal, who gave the timely breakthrough of Brandon King (54) in the 45th over to make the job tougher for the West Indies in their stiff chase of 309, said.
“And when the coaches and management gives you that much confidence you are always ready to go and perform. I always back my strengths, I knew that the ball had become old and the ball can turn and beat the batters. So I was changing my line, bowling wider because the leg side boundary was a bit small so I thought if he hits me over cover it would be better.
“This change has come from the IPL, because there I was bowling the 16th, 17th and 18th over, so I got the confidence from there. My role was clear, I was told to bowl two-three overs after the 40th over. So I practice accordingly and also plan with our bowling coach.”
In a high-scoring thriller, Chahal, who turned 32 on Saturday, finished with figures of 2/58 from his full quota of 10 overs.
The hosts needed 60 off the last 90 balls and the 56-run stand between King and Akeal Hosein (32 not out off 32) kept India on the edge. However, thanks to Chahal and Mohammed Siraj holding his nerves while bowling the last over with the Windies needing 15 for victory, India emerged winners.
“We had full faith in Siraj and that we can defend five runs in the last over as he was bowling his yorkers very well… He missed hardly one or two yorkers earlier.
“But yes, a little bit of pressure is always there, given the way they were batting. Sanju (Samson) stopped a certain boundary off a wide, and that raised our confidence.”
Some of the big names are missing from the squad but Chahal said the bowling attack still cannot be called inexperienced.
“There was not much pressure, because if you look at the team overall, almost everyone has played a lot of first-class matches, they have gained so much experience from the IPL, so you can’t say the bowling line-up was inexperienced,” Chahal said.
Asked about stand-in skipper Shikhar Dhawan, who made 97 off 99 balls at the top of the order, Chahal said, “He is a cool guy, his bonding with every player is like a brother. We talk about our plans, various situations, and sometimes we also have fun on and off the filed.”
The opener was closer than many expected, given that the West Indies were swept aside by a visiting Bangladesh side 3-0 in the preceding rubber.
“The wicket against Bangladesh and this wicket were totally different because there the ball was turning a lot. Credit must go to their batters, the way they batted in the middle-order. But we knew one or two wickets would put the pressure back on them,” Chahal said.