Deshpande's rise from being CSK's net bowler to bowling tough overs in the middle

He has been expensive, but at the same time brings with him the ability to take wickets

Deivarayan Muthu
Tushar Deshpande took out Rohit Sharma, Mumbai Indians vs Chennai Super Kings, IPL 2023, Mumbai, April 8, 2023

Tushar Deshpande took out Rohit Sharma in the match against Mumbai Indians  •  BCCI

In the absence of Dwayne Bravo, who is now Chennai Super Kings' bowling coach, he has fronted up to bowl at the death. Then, when Super Kings lost Deepak Chahar to injury one over into the match against Mumbai Indians at the Wankhede, he fronted up to bowl two overs in the powerplay and bowled Rohit Sharma with a beauty. With Ben Stokes and Mukesh Choudhary also injured, Tushar Deshpande has become Super Kings' go-to seamer.
Deshpande was a net bowler with Super Kings in IPL 2021 after having gone unsold at that auction. Two seasons on, Dhoni trusts him to bowl the tough overs.
There's a bit of Shardul Thakur about Deshpande. He can be expensive, but at the same time, he brings with him unpredictable variety and the ability to take wickets. Tim David walloped him for 6, 4, 6 but didn't expect a grippy slower offcutter next ball, and ended up dragging a pull to deep midwicket. Deshpande can also crank it up to 140kph and surprise batters with extra pace.
"We believe in him," MS Dhoni said after the game against Mumbai. "Also what happens is when you're new, you have a different sort of pressure, but if you've already played IPL for a few games, then it becomes like a comeback. I feel, as a cricketer, it's one of the worst feelings to have. But he had a very good domestic season and that helped.
"We have been constantly talking to him about what needs to be done. He is very good at execution, but in the last couple of games, he had bowled no-balls and that's not a very good feeling to have. When you're at your bowling mark, that's something you don't want to have in your mind. I feel he's improving; the delivery that Rohit got out to was a fantastic delivery. So, he has that potential, he can be much more consistent and we're just hoping that he takes that added responsibility."
Deshpande had a rough start to the IPL 2023. As the first-ever Impact Player in the IPL, he leaked 51 runs in 3.2 overs against defending champions Gujarat Titans in Ahmedabad. Then, against Lucknow Super Giants at Chepauk, where he said the "crowd was so loud that I couldn't hear anything", he bowled an 11-ball over in the powerplay, which cost 18 runs.
"I've been working on yorkers. I feel it does not come naturally. Even if it comes naturally, you need to have the guts to execute that when you are under pressure"
Tushar Deshpande
Deshpande has had issues with overstepping in the past too, but he put that horror over behind him and executed the best-laid plans of Bravo when he returned to bowl at the death. When he came back, Super Giants were 150 for 5 in 15 overs, chasing 218, with Nicholas Pooran on 31 off 15 balls, having just reverse-swept Ravindra Jadeja into the top-tier over point.
At the time out, the message from Bravo was to bowl wide yorkers and hide them away from the reach of Pooran. Dhoni gave him three fielders on the off-side boundary - deep point, deep cover and long-off - including two of his best in Mitchell Santner and Ben Stokes. Deshpande stuck to the plan and gave up just one run off the first two balls to Pooran. He then darted another wide yorker - possibly wider than another set of stumps - and had Pooran slicing it to Stokes at long-off. Just six runs off the over to go with the wicket of Pooran. Game over for Super Giants.
Deshpande admits that the yorker doesn't come to him naturally, but he has been learning on the job from one of the best in the business. On Monday evening at the Chepauk nets, Bravo had both Deshpande and Dwaine Pretorius bowling both wide yorkers and straight yorkers under his supervision.
"I think bowling at the death is something that comes with great responsibility," Deshpande told select newspapers in Chennai. "I've been working on yorkers. I feel it does not come naturally. Even if it comes naturally, you need to have the guts to execute that when you are under pressure. So I feel staying in the moment helps."
The yorker is arguably the hardest delivery to nail. Overpitch it, it's a full toss. Under-pitch it, it's a half-volley. Even if you nail it, you can disappear for runs. Deshpande has embraced that challenge.
"If you're bowling in the death, you have to accept that someday you are going to get hit," he said. "So you need to stay in the present even if you get hit for a six off the first ball. I have the next five balls to come back in the game or take the batter out. So staying in the present and in the moment is very important, and I personally feel that the next five balls are an opportunity for a bowler to get his mark back in the game. So that is what helps while bowling at the death."
Those who have followed Deshpande in Mumbai's cricket circles speak highly of his commitment and fortitude. Just days after he had lost his mother to cancer, Deshpande rejoined Mumbai's squad for the 2019 Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy game against Delhi in Indore and bowled them to victory with figures of 4 for 19. Ajinkya Rahane, his captain at Mumbai and current team-mate at Super Kings, is also impressed with his progress.
"Tushar has been bowling really well and he had a great [domestic] season for Mumbai," Rahane said after the match against Mumbai. "Even in the match before this [game against Mumbai Indians], his comeback was really great. The first over was not up to the mark in the last game but the way he came back and the way he bowled in the death overs was really good. I'm really happy for him. [These are] still early days for him and he will learn a lot by playing matches and when you're playing under Mahi , you're sure that you will learn every time you're out in the middle."
At the IPL 2022 auction, Super Kings raised their bid up to INR 7 crore to buy back Thakur, but he ultimately got away from them. They have now found another Mumbai player who can perform the role that Thakur used to do for them with the ball. Deshpande is no Thakur with the bat, but the introduction of the Impact Player rule means he need not be.

Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo