Where does Yuzvendra Chahal rank among the IPL’s greatest ever bowlers?
@Ben_Wisden 3 minute read
It rarely takes Yuzvendra Chahal long to strike, and at Eden Gardens today (May 11) it took two balls. His first was nudged for a single before Kolkata Knight Riders captain Nitish Rana swung the next into the leg-side.
As is so often the case with Chahal, there was just enough on the ball to entice the error. Rana couldn’t quite get the combination of elevation and power required. Shimron Hetmyer clung onto a good low catch. And history was made.
Chahal had overtaken Dwayne Bravo as the leading wicket taker in IPL history, and added three more for good measure to take his tally to 187 wickets in 143 games. Without pause the discussions began over where he ranks among the greatest IPL bowlers.
Nick Knight immediately rated him as “the greatest bowler the IPL had ever seen,” which is hyperbolic if based solely on his wickets tally – few would have Bravo, as good as he is, as the second-best bowler in IPL history, and even fewer would have Rashid Khan outside the top ten.
That’s not to say that Chahal’s other numbers are bad. His average of 21.27 is exceptional, the fifth best in the IPL, and while his economy rate of 7.63 is some way down the list, a career mostly spent at the batting paradise that is the Bengaluru serves as some mitigation. But both numbers pale in comparison to another leggie, Rashid Khan, who, astonishingly, is third in the averages list and top of the economy rates list, and Lasith Malinga, second in the averages and in the top ten for economy rates. Those are two strong contenders for the crown. Chahal is also yet to win the IPL, whereas Rashid was key in Gujarat Titans’ 2022 title win and Malinga propped up Mumbai Indians for years as they dominated the competition.
Still, none of this is to detract from Chahal, and what is most exciting is how we might only now be seeing his best. His record at the death in IPL 2023 is incredible, an economy of 4.77 by far the best of any bowler with an eight-over cut-off. And 2022 was his best campaign so far, scalping 27 wickets, the most by a spinner in a single season. With 21 wickets in 2023 already, he could end up breaking his own record in short time.
This has been the story of Chahal throughout his IPL career. In three of his first four seasons he went at over eight runs per over, something he is yet to repeat since 2017. His consistency is to be admired, with a lowest tally of 18 wickets in a season since 2019.
It’s a glittering IPL CV, and while it’s missing a winner’s medal, there’s little other fault to find. At the rate he’s going, he’s likely to be the first IPL bowler to 200 wickets, and his tally when he’s done could take a while to break. Chahal might not quite qualify for ‘best ever’ status, but it’s still been one of the great IPL careers.
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