India legspinner Yuzvendra Chahal has said we will "see a more confident Yuzi" during India's limited-overs tour of Sri Lanka starting on July 13 in Colombo. Chahal, alongside Kuldeep Yadav, was a key member of India's ODI squad in their lead up to the 2019 World Cup. Since that tournament, however, neither has had an assured spot. This was reflected in BCCI's annual contracts list for the year as well, with Chahal and Yadav both demoted to Grade C, from Grade B and A respectively.
Since the end of the 2019 World Cup, Chahal averages 37.12 in ODIs and has gone at an economy rate of 6.45. Those numbers must be qualified with the fact that he has played in only five games during that period - which coincided with the Covid-19 pandemic - but his being benched during the entirety of India's three-match ODI series at home against England in March was a reminder of sorts of his diminished importance in the squad. But Chahal said the team management had communicated their confidence in him.
"My performance - I don't think it was a dip [in form] or anything," Chahal said ahead of the Sri Lanka ODI series. "You can't perform in every match. I will try my level best. This series is very important to me.
"I keep having conversations with the bowling coach. They [management] have given us confidence, and that's why I'm here. If it wasn't there, no one in the team [would be here]. My main focus at the moment is just this series - there's been lesser cricket over the last year, but that's not in our hands. Whatever series happens, we want to perform. After this series, my focus will be on the IPL, and only then the [T20] World Cup. Right now, I'm focusing on this tour only."
Chahal's last ODI appearance was against Australia, in November 2020. Since then, he has played in 19 T20s across domestic and international cricket, and only two List A games for Haryana. But the spinner said he had been reminded by stand-in coach Rahul Dravid that he would be the senior spinner on this tour and that the coach wanted him to have a guiding influence on the younger players.
"I'm playing an ODI series after so long, but we've already played here - two practice matches. [We've been practicing] early in the morning so that we get used to the heat," he said. "It'll be totally different compared to 20 overs where we're on the ground for three, three-and-a-half hours."
"I keep having conversations with the bowling coach. They [management] have given us confidence, and that's why I'm here"Yuzvendra Chahal
A major difference between T20Is and ODIs is the fielding restrictions - with only four fielders allowed outside the 30-yard circle from the 11th to the 40th over of ODIs. Chahal said that while those restrictions might be hard on a spin bowler, they aren't new.
"I've played for five years, 50-plus matches, so I'm used to all this," he said. "This is not an excuse or something. Now, when I bowl, I just focus on how to get batters out. That's it.
"I've a couple of variations and I'm focusing on that only, not using other deliveries. You will see a more confident Yuzi in this series. I'm just working on my angles and in general trying to bowl more."
Varun Shetty is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo