Chawla baffled by international exile
Legspinner Piyush Chawla has been a member of India's two biggest global-tournament wins in the 21st century, but eight years after making his international debut, he is still to cement a place in the national team.
As he begins his quest of making yet another comeback to international cricket by leading Central Zone in the Duleep Trophy semi-final against North Zone, Chawla is not sure why it has not worked for him at the highest level.
"Although I did well in whatever opportunities I got, I don't know what went wrong," Chawla told ESPNcricinfo from Chandigarh. "I did well in the World Cup, but was dropped after that. Then picked four wickets on a real flat deck in a Test against England, and was dropped thereafter. I don't know what went wrong."
Chawla last played an ODI more than three years ago, during the 2011 World Cup. His Test comeback the following year was short-lived, and not long after the 2012 World T20 in Sri Lanka, Chawla lost his place in the T20 side too.
Still, Chawla has never desired to approach any of the selectors and ask them what is going wrong with him. "That's not the way I am. All I know is that I have to keep on doing well. If I continue doing it, the rewards will follow. That is what I am going to do now and hope things change in the coming season."
The season has not started on a promising note for Chawla, as he was overlooked not only for the ODIs against West Indies and Sri Lanka, but even the tour games against both the teams. But he is undeterred. "It's best to focus on the job at hand," he says. "I will be leading the Central Zone and I hope to give my best and extract the best out of my team-mates in the Duleep Trophy."
Chawla is often criticised for coming good with the bat more often than with the ball at the domestic level, and the numbers back up the critics. In the 2012-13 Ranji Trophy, Chawla finished with 10 wickets in five matches at 58.50, while he scored 340 runs at 56.66 in seven innings, and even topped the run-scoring charts for Uttar Pradesh. Last season, he picked up just 16 wickets at 49.87, but scored a century in his tally of 275 runs.
When asked about the criticism, Chawla hit back: "First of all, it's only good that I am contributing both with the bat and the ball. As for the lack of wickets, if you look at the top wicket-takers' charts, you will see that spinners hardly find a mention in it. That's because the Ranji Trophy games are played either on green tops or real flat decks. Very rarely do we see spinning tracks in domestic cricket."
Chawla has a point. In the last two years, only one spinner has finished in the top-five wicket-takers for the season: in 2012-13, Shahbaz Nadeem's tally of 41 wickets was the fourth-highest for the season, and in 2013-14, all five top wicket-takers were seamers.
"In UP, with the battery of pace bowlers we have, we prefer to play on green tops, so to chip in with two or three wickets is good for a spinner," Chawla said. "So while analysing spinners' performances, one should also consider the number of overs he has bowled and whether he has been able to contain the batsmen."
Amol Karhadkar is a correspondent at ESPNcricinfo