EXCLUSIVE: Ian Pont sheds light on how Deepak Chahar became the ultimate powerplay weapon

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The last month or so has been quite phenomenal for Deepak Chahar. His performance in the three-match T20I series against Bangladesh at home was something he would have dreamt of again and again, ever since he started harbouring dreams of playing for India. The third match of that series not only saw him becoming the first Indian to register a hat-trick in men’s T20Is but he also rewrote the record for the best bowling figures in the format.

And if that weren’t enough, he went back to play for his state, Rajasthan, in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, and almost picked up yet another hat-trick, only to be denied by a wide delivery he bowled in between his three scalps.

Nevertheless, it turned out to be a terrific outing for him once again as he ended up with a total tally of 12 wickets–just one short of the tally of his team’s highest wicket-taker who had played three matches more than him–in seven matches at a mean economy rate of 6.91.

As India gear up to take on West Indies in yet another three-match T20I series at home, starting with the first match on December 6, the 27-year-old is raring to deliver his best once again.

Everyone is stoked to see the rapid strides Chahar has made in the last few years and Ian Pont, former Bangladesh bowling coach and the current head coach of the Ultimate Pace Foundation, who had worked with the Indian pacer during the Rajasthan Cricket Association Camp three years back, couldn’t have been happier to see his progress as well.

In tête-à-tête with Prasenjit Dey, Pont shed light on the various things he had helped Chahar to improve upon during his pre-IPL days, how he stacks up as a bowler when compared to someone like Bhuvneshwar Kumar and finally, how the Agra-born pacer became the powerplay weapon that he is today.

Excerpts from the interview

You have watched Deepak Chahar at close quarters during the RCA camp in 2016. What was your first impression about him?

Deepak asked to work with me and Catherine Dalton exclusively whilst we were at the RCA Camps. At that time he was not even in the Ranji squad. But he wanted to learn and he wanted to improve himself. It was a sign of this young man’s quality that he requested one-to-one coaching.

 

What did you work on primarily? What are the tips and suggestions you gave him at that time?

His action needed some small tweaks. So we set about working on his arm position, his base alignment and his overall pace through the 4 Tent Peg drills and linking his movements into a more flowing and coordinated structure. This helped him become more consistent and a bit quicker.

The other thing we helped with was to cement his role as a bowler. Deepak wanted to break into the IPL and I suggested he should become a ‘go to’ bowler known for a specialist skill. His skill lay in bowling dot balls, mixing his deliveries and taking pace off the ball, meaning it suited power play bowling.

 

If I ask you to be honest, did you think at that time that he would go on to make his India debut in the next two years?

We work with so many people that it is hard to say who will go and be successful. From way back to Mohit Sharma and Harshal Patel with Haryana before they were successful, it is difficult to predict just who will turn out to be an International. Much depends on luck, good fortune and consistency. And even then it might elude you. Deepak had a real desire and quiet confidence in his own ability back then. And once he decided what his role was going to be in white ball cricket, he was able to focus on becoming really great at it

Deepak Chahar of India during the 2nd T20I match between India and Bangladesh held at the Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium, Rajkot on the 7th November 2019.
Photo by Arjun Singh / Sportzpics for BCCI

How long have you worked with him? Has it stretched beyond that camp in 2016?

We had 5 days with him of great intensity. That was enough for him to kick start his progressions. In the same way that you help fix and tune a car, it might only require a relatively short time. It just shows that you could make important improvements during the IPL too despite the claims that 8 weeks is too short a time!  Both Cath (Catherine Dalton) and I have maintained contact with him however and he is able to reach out to us anytime he wishes. Now he is experiencing high levels of cricket, he will also learn from that.

What do you think is the difference between the Deepak Chahar of 2016 and that of 2019? What are the improvements you are seeing? A six-wicket haul and a hat-trick in a T20 game is no mean feat.

He has improved his action and also backed himself with skill. When you know what you are doing you have the chance to repeat it under pressure if you have worked smart. You can see he really enjoys his cricket and it is showing in his performances

Also Read: There’s no stopping Deepak Chahar now

Chahar was being labelled as a one-trick pony for being able to bowl only with the new ball a couple of years back. But this year he has shown that he has developed the ability of bowling at any stage of the game. So can you give us an idea about the work that must have gone on behind the curtains to make him a complete bowler?

I think a one-trick pony is not understanding that he is a specialist when it comes to new ball bowling. How many can do this successfully? Most bowlers detest bowling with only two fielders out in a power play. His stats are as good as anyone’s in this regard. And also, when you mix in the IPL you see and meet many other bowlers and coaches who can give you ideas to try out. He won the IPL with CSK in his debut year. MS Dhoni was a great influence on him and clearly backed him. Now the BCCI back him too and Deepak understands his own game.

 

Talking about his skills, he is terrific in the powerplay. What do you think is his secret to success during such a crucial stage of the game?

Thats a good question. I like to think a great white ball bowler has two different deliveries he can go to for his field placing. Deepak is someone who keeps a batsman guessing and it is a batsman’s game so that’s hard to come out on top. He uses his variations as well as anyone: slower balls, Yorkers, butterfly ball and cutters – and can also gain swing upfront. This is why he has been such a success most of the time.

 

We all know that he has a natural ability to swing the ball. So, what makes it tick for him? Why are his swinging abilities better than most other bowlers?

Swing is all about the seam position as it leaves your hand. If the seam is right and the ball is stable in the air, it will swing. Many bowlers grip it for swing but do not end top swinging it much. This is often due to a poor release. Whats good about Deepak is he sends the ball down just right to maximise any movement in the air when the ball is at it’s best.

Deepak Chahar bowled a sensational spell of 3.2-0-7-6 in the third T20I against Bangladesh at Nagpur

Deepak Chahar bowled a sensational spell of 3.2-0-7-6 in the third T20I against Bangladesh at Nagpur

Speaking about Chahar’s bowling action, how do you rate it? It seems pretty smooth to the naked eye. But, is there any room for improvement?

He has some minor points he could still improve upon, such as driving out better with his legs towards off stump and ensuring he bowls down his own railway track. But he made some superb tweaks in 2016 through the 4 Tent Peg Drills which has helped him consistently deliver his best balls.

 

Chahar has had his fitness issues in the past. How do you see him shaping up now on that aspect?

He looks pretty fit to me. Every fast bowler suffers from one sort of injury at some stage. Bowling fast almost means you are likely to break down at some time. But Deepak is in good hands with some excellent support around him so he can simply now go out and  practice what he has trained for.

 

Do you think that the present version of Deepak Chahar is on par with someone like Bhuvneshwar Kumar at the moment or you rate one of them as better than the other?

Different bowlers. At this stage Deepak has specialised in white ball outcomes and favours the T20 version of the game. In the same way some batsmen are T20 specialists. I wouldn’t compare him to Bhuvneshwar but rather think of him as a support to someone like that. To have them both playing alongside Bumrah would be interesting!

 

Do you think Chahar has it in him to be successful across all formats? There are no doubts about his limited overs abilities but his overall first-class record is pretty average.

He is a white ball expert and spending his time being great at that. We all know players who are great in Test Matches but hopeless when it comes to T20 or the IPL. The same can be said the other way round. I get the feeling Deepak is just very content where he is and happy to continue setting records where and when he can for India and in the IPL for years to come.



Prasenjit Dey is a freelance cricket writer and the Co-founder of CricXtasy with bylines across various reputed national and international publications like Cricbuzz, The Cricketer, The Hindu, The New Daily, Firstpost, The Quint and The Citizen among others. You can find him on Twitter @CricPrasen


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