It was something said by Gujarat Titans’s Abhinav Manohar, who went after Mumbai Indians’s Piyush Chawla in one over, that captures how the opposition view the veteran legspinner in the IPL.
“In our pre-game batting meeting, Hardik Pandya told us that we should target Mumbai’s best bowler Piyush Chawla,” Manohar said, adding how it would then affect the other bowlers. And so, Manohar tool calculated risks to pull it off; it hasn’t always paid off for all teams in this IPL. At 34, he is still foxing the batsmen with 11 wickets in seven matches at an economy of 7.11. With that cherubic face that’s always clean shaven to ensure no grey hairy remnants stick out, Chawla has been superb this IPL. Not that he would be surprised.
On a chilly winter Delhi afternoon in December last year, Chawla had walked into the media box at the Arun Jaitley Cricket Stadium and had an hour-long discussion with a handful of journalists about this and that – how he can still be a matchwinner in T20. He wasn’t picked in the 2022 IPL but had just made the comeback to Mumbai Indians.
“Look, I don’t play four-day cricket anymore. I know my body can’t take it. But I had played Syed Mushtaq Ali for Gujarat, did reasonably well, and I still feel in this format I am still a match-winner,” he said. He is walking the talk.
For long, considered the lucky charm of Indian cricket – he has been part of several world cup winnings teams across formats from junior-group cricket, Chawla is charming the pants off legspin connoisseurs this season.
Chawla’s run in to bowl is a peculiar sight. Unlike most leggies, who like to spin the ball from the right hand at top of their mark, he just keeps tossing it from one hand to the other as if juggling a dice or how the gloved wicketkeepers’ handle the ball. Then mid-run, he tosses the ball and just about grips before he reaches the crease.
The world knows that his main weapon is the googly – the back-of-the-hand version when he wants to spin it more and slower and the quicker finger version that slides out from the side of the palms when he wants pace and camouflage. But he has wedged in the other bits rather nicely to concoct wholesome spells of smarts this season. The angles of release have caught the eye (wide of crease, wider of crease, close to stumps and from mid-point, he traverses all forms of entry); so has the different pace and the use of the conventional leg breaks, and of course that stinging googly.
Against Delhi, he returned with figures of 3 for 22, and took the wickets of Manish Pandey, Rovman Powell and Lalit Yadav. The mode of dismissals was different: Pandey was thwarted by the leg break, holing out; Powell was stung by a sharp googly, and Lalit Yadav went for the inside-out drive but lost his leg stump by the wrong’un.
In the post-match presser, Chawla would say: “Everyone knows that PC is coming he’s gonna bowl a wrong one but still I end up getting wickets on wrong ones; so I am more than happy doing that.”
Against Punjab Kings, Chawla’s battle with Liam Livingstone was the highlight. The 8th over was a struggle for Livingstone, facing a dipping full one, a slower googly that beat his charge, a slider that came in quickly, the outside-off googly that thwarted him. Just one run came in that over, and Chawla, unsurprisingly, struck in his next. Livingstone was off the blocks too early, and Chawla slid it down the leg for a stumping. Against Hyderabad, he had the dangerous Heinrich Klassen holing out with a googly that peeled off the surface ever so slowly.
Chawla has last played a first-class match in 2020 for Gujarat, but he still plays the white-ball tournament. In last year’s Syed Mushtaq Ali, he bagged six wickets in as many matches, with an excellent economy under seven. He had said playing domestic white-ball tournaments helped him to stay competitive. “I’m not playing much of cricket like domestic or competitive cricket but I make sure whatever game I play I put my more than 100% and body on the line,” he said.
“If you talk about watching cricket, then I don’t watch much cricket to be very honest, because I feel if you bowl a good ball it’s a good ball in any format and for any batter, so i just prepare myself,” he had said in that chat.
In his first couple of T20s in IPL way back in 2008, Piyush Chawla was carted around, triggering self-doubts. Should he try more restrictive bowling in this format? Luckily, one of the opposing teams was led by Shane Warne who when consulted told him to always try to get wickets.
Tanmay Srivastava, his former Uttar Pradesh teammate, is not surprised by Chawla’s performance. He feels Piyush Chawla loves the big stage and is a big-match player.
“He hated bowling in the league matches of Ranji Trophy. But in the knockouts, with crowds there, he is a different beast. I am not surprised by his performances in this year’s IPL. If you remember, he won the IPL for KKR. That six off Mitchell Johnson in the last ball of the penultimate over and then that winning boundary. As I said, he likes the big stage and thrives under pressure,” said Srivastava.
During that chat in Delhi, when asked whether the new ‘Impact Player’ rule has given the second wind to him, Chawla argued, “I am certainly not an Impact player. I am not a dud with the bat. I can still score 10-ball 20 if it requires. So, this rule is fascinating, but it is certainly not for me.” He might not be the designated IP, but with the ball he is certainly the most impactful bowler for Mumbai, and one of the better T20 spinners going around in the IPL.
News Source: https://indianexpress.com/article/sports/ipl/mi-piyush-chawla-the-ageless-leggie-who-is-still-deceiving-batsmen-with-his-wrong-uns-8578643/lite/