Amit Mishra is bowling to MS Dhoni. It is an optional training session. With the series won, the No. 1 ranking secured, dominance established and a sprinkle of rain in the air, Wednesday afternoon is about having a bit of fun before India have to wrap things up. Balls go flying into the second tier of the stands. Even the car to be awarded to the Man of the Series, parked on a pedestal beyond the boundary, gets a proper tonking. This is the plight of spinners at the M Chinnaswamy stadium. Yet there is one spinner who has made his name here.
Yuzvendra Chahal was bought by Royal Challengers Bangalore in 2014 for INR 10 lakh (approx USD 16,000). At the time, he had 18 wickets from 22 T20s, with only one IPL match. Three years later, he is an indispensable part of the franchise, and is building a very strong case to be kept as a frontline option for India in international cricket.
Chahal's success so far has come from his ability to read a situation. He doesn't really turn the ball too much, sometimes it seems like he doesn't even want to. He is accurate, though, which could be a consequence of his action. His arm at the point of release is often at 90 degrees whereas most legspinners try to avoid the perpendicular to get the ball to rip past a right-hander's outside edge. He has a googly which has served him quite well. But his greatest strength is his temperament, and proof of that has been his performance at his home ground.
Well, he's from Haryana, but Chahal has played much more cricket for Royal Challengers, in a stadium where his style of bowling is not meant to do well. The Chinnaswamy has racked up 870 sixes in the IPL, which is by far the record. Wankhede Stadium comes in second with a count of 657. So imagine how he must feel when he looks up from his run-up and sees boundaries that are just about 60 yards away.
Then again, he was at least in the middle as a team's first-choice spinner and that hasn't happened very often for Chahal. His first-class career is stuck at 27 matches, despite a debut eight years ago, because he has had to compete for a spot with Amit Mishra, who, considering his stints as captain of Haryana, couldn't be dropped and because of that the second-in-line was a fingerspinner like Jayant Yadav.
Royal Challengers looked past that and gave him the responsibility. Chahal responded by taking 41 wickets from 28 innings at Chinnaswamy. He is the most successful T20 bowler at this ground and among the top 10 there is only one other spinner - Piyush Chawla with 12 strikes in 12 innings.
"It's always about giving my best for the team that I play," Chahal said. "Also, whenever I bowl, I never look at the name of the batsman I am bowling to - even if I am playing club matches, inter-matches or the IPL, I bowl only to my strengths and that gives me a lot of confidence too. If you see, Bangalore is a small ground but I have got a lot of wickets here."
Doing well at franchise level doesn't always mean a player is ready for the step up though. But Chahal, in the 10 ODIs since his debut in 2016, has only once gone wicketless. And in this series against Australia, he has been the captain's preferred weapon against Glenn Maxwell. When he won the head-to-head a third time in a row, Chahal celebrated by gesturing how he had out-thought the batsman.
"I don't bowl at the stumps to him," he said. "That is his strong area. So I always look to bowl outside off stump and vary my pace. I know that if I have bowled 2-3 dots, then he will look to step out to me but that delivery - where I pitch it and how it beats him - that has to be perfect."
Those are the kind of wickets that makes a bowler smile when sitting alone at an airport on travel day while his box-office friendly colleagues are hounded for selfies. But Chahal won't mind. He's got work to do. Finally, he's got work to do.