Chahar - the Powerplay Super King
A baby at 26 in MS Dhoni's 'Dad's Army' - otherwise known as Chennai Super Kings - Deepak Chahar is among the most important members of the team.
"Under the radar" and "relatively unsung", Stephen Fleming said of him the other day, while gushing about the paceman's consistency, skills, and ability to tone things down for the benefit of his team. Consistency, especially in the Powerplay. No one has done more in the Powerplay in IPL matches than Chahar since the start of the 2018 season - just look at the numbers.
Little surprise then that he returned 3 for 14 in three Powerplay overs against Kolkata Knight Riders on Tuesday. His wickets: Chris Lynn, Nitish Rana and Robin Uthappa, one in each over.
For the record, he bowled 20 dot balls in his four overs on the night - including five in the 19th over of the Knight Riders innings when, admittedly, Andre Russell was farming the strike and trying to go big. That is the most number of dot balls in an IPL innings, ever.
That said, Russell scored 50 not out in 44 balls to keep his fantastic sequence going - that's 46% of Knight Riders' runs on the night.
Chepauk pitch not yet 'a lot better'
The first match of this year's IPL pitted Chennai Super Kings against Royal Challengers Bangalore. In Chennai's MA Chidambaram Stadium. Batting first, Royal Challengers rolled over for 70 - they haven't quite gotten back on their feet yet.
"It was too slow," Dhoni had told Sanjay Manjrekar in the post-match chat then. "Definitely it needs to be a lot better than where it is right now. Even with the dew, it was still turning a bit." He explained that 140-150 was the minimum in a T20 game, and the pitch wasn't good enough for that.
His team-mate Harbhajan, however, had disagreed. "We're so used to watching matches on good wickets where no one complains when people score 170-180," Harbhajan Singh, man of the match then for his 3 for 30, had said.
Over two weeks on, it definitely hasn't become a lot better. Take out Russell's unbeaten 50 - at a strike rate of 113.63, which is much, much slower than his usual belligerent efforts - and it could have been another 70 all out.
Wonder if it's the sort of home advantage anyone wants; Dhoni certainly didn't back on March 23, what do the fans have to say?
Don't bowl spin to Sunil Narine, unless it's Chennai
Logic, and common sense, suggests that teams shouldn't bowl spin to Sunil Narine early on, in the Powerplay, which is typically where he does most of his batting. Try telling that to Dhoni, though.
At the toss, Dhoni was asked if he paid heed to T20 analytics before making decisions. "No, not much," he responded with a smile. Therefore, it was no surprise that he threw the ball to Harbhajan for the second over after Chahar had sent back Lynn in the first.
Before this game, Narine had a strike rate of 254 against spin in IPL Powerplays, and 166 against pace in the same period.
But, even though Dhoni doesn't care much for numbers, he may have remembered the Narine v Harbhajan match-up the last time they met in Chennai: one ball, one dismissal, in IPL 2018. This time, Harbhajan bowled four balls to Narine, conceded one run, and then had his man again.
That left Knight Riders at 8 for 2 in two overs, and by the end of the Powerplay, they were 29 for 4 as Chahar picked up two more wickets. Not their worst Powerplay performance ever - that stands at 22 for 4, also in Chennai against Super Kings, in 2010 - but in the top (or bottom!) five.
With inputs from Gaurav Sundararaman and Mathew Varghese