When India won the U-19 World Cup in 2018, their young and exciting pace battery took the cricketing world by storm. Shivam Mavi, Kamlesh Nagarkoti and Ishan Porel, to some extent, garnered a lot of attention.
However, not many noticed a lean little left-arm Indian medium pacer, Arshdeep Singh, who played against Papua New Guinea and Zimbabwe but had to vacate the place when Ishan Porel returned from an injury.
Growing in Stature
Arshdeep Singh made his IPL debut next year but was only given three matches. His star began to shine brighter with every passing season from then on, and today, he stands on the brink of a Team India call up.
You won't find Arshdeep leading the wicket-taking charts or making headlines that often, but if anybody has done his job in IPL 2022, it is the 23-year-old Madhya Pradesh-born medium pacer.
His numbers don't jump out at you in the ongoing edition of the IPL. In fact, he has taken only 6 wickets from 11 outings. But, he has been one of the pillars in the Punjab Kings' bowling line-up.
The medium pacer has maintained a brilliant economy rate of 7.78 in IPL 2022 which is among the best in the competition. Not only that, he gives captain Mayank Agarwal a lot of options to play with as he is more than capable of delivering in the powerplay, in the middle overs and at the death as well.
Part of the reason for Arshdeep not getting enough attention is that Punjab Kings are not doing a great job in the IPL and despite having the batters on a leash, the left-arm pacer hasn't been able to pick up a bagful of wickets.
It was mildly surprising for the average cricket fan when Punjab Kings decided to retain him before the IPL mega auctions. However, given his versatility, the move had already been anticipated by the analysts.
The medium pacer had an inauspicious start to this year's IPL campaign, beginning with 5 wides to Faf du Plessis. But, as always, he did come back strongly and finished his quota of four overs with an economy rate of 7.80 and even kept famed finisher Dinesh Karthik quiet.
Silencing the Big Guns
After tackling Andre Russell over the last couple of years, there have already been multiple instances this season when Arshdeep hasn't allowed even the fiercest hitters to get away.
He put a choke on MS Dhoni, Ambati Rayudu and Ravindra Jadeja in Punjab Kings' clash against CSK and gave away just 6 and 8 runs from the 17th and 19th overs respectively.
Rahul Tewatia may have finally managed to get Gujarat over the line but before his heroics, Shubman Gill and Hardik Pandya were not able to pepper Arshdeep.
Even Suryakumar Yadav, known for his canny ability to find gaps, wasn't able to succeed against the Punjab bowler when Mumbai Indians needed 33 of 18 deliveries. He bowled a superb 18th over, giving away just 5 runs and gave an exemplary display of pinpoint yorkers and an extremely well-executed wide bouncer.
In Punjab's recent fixture against Rajasthan Royals, when Yashasvi Jaiswal and Shimron Hetmyer took them to a hard-fought 6-wicket victory, it was Arshdeep's brilliant penultimate over which dragged the game to the last over.
The leader of the Punjab pace attack, Kagiso Rabada, had just leaked 17 runs from the 18th over, including two fours and a six. With Rajasthan needing just 11 off 12 balls, Arshdeep was given the unenviable task when the youngster put up a masterclass of death bowling.
After nailing four perfect yorkers, Arshdeep dismissed Devdutt Padikkal off the second last ball and then finished the over off with a dot ball to Riyan Parag.
Arshdeep Singh's returns at the death (overs 17 to 20) in IPL 2022 have been brilliant as he has given away just 87 runs from 72 deliveries, at a superb economy rate of 7.25. This is when 12-15 runs are being scored for fun in the last few overs.
Not just at the death, he has been on the button in the powerplay as well and has maintained an economy rate of 7.71.
The cricketer who plays First-class cricket for Punjab has been impressive in the middle overs as well and offers a complete package. Imagine what Mumbai Indians, who are leaking runs left, right and centre would give to have such a bowler in their line-up.
Often, praise from former or current internationals goes a long way in convincing the national selectors to have a look at a given prospect. Kagiso Rabada, one of the leading pace bowlers in international cricket, has backed his accomplice whole-heartedly.
“I think Arsh has been the best death bowler in this competition. That’s what the stats say. He’s a youngster coming in. He’s got a lot of drive, a lot of ambition and he’s got talent as well. He’s just a good bloke. So, it’s nice to have him around. I’ve always bowled at the death, so I know I’m going to bowl at the death, but Arsh has just been magnificent and is leading the way in that discipline,” Rabada said.
PBKS Skipper Mayank Agarwal, too, had kind words to say about the left-arm pacer after Punjab's recent clash against Rajasthan Royals and the credits are gradually adding up for Arshdeep.
India's Quest for Left-Arm Pace
After the glory days of Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra, RP Singh and Irfan Pathan, India have been on a constant lookout for quality left-arm pace bowlers. This is part of the reason why the likes of Barinder Sran, Jaydev Unadkat, Khaleel Ahmed and T Natarajan got picked for India when perhaps all of them were slightly undercooked.
Why Unadkat keeps getting the big bucks in the IPL auction despite leaking runs has to do with the fact that he provides the coveted left-arm angle to go along with his assortment of slower deliveries.
While another seriously talented Indian left-arm pacer Chetan Sakariya hasn't got consistent opportunities this year for Delhi Capitals, Arshdeep has T Natarajan (17 wickets from 9 IPL 2022 matches, ER: 8.65) to contend with as there will be a place for only one left-armer on the flight to Australia for the 2022 T20 World Cup.
In fact, it was Sakariya who pipped him to a spot in the Indian XI last year. Arshdeep toured Sri Lanka in 2021 as a net bowler and was eventually added to the squad after half a dozen Indian players tested positive for COVID-19, but an India cap still remained out of reach.
Impressive Domestic Numbers
It's not just the IPL, Ashdeep Singh, who has added a couple of yards to his pace as well, has impressive numbers across formats in domestic cricket.
In the Ranji Trophy, he has taken 21 wickets from just 6 games at an average of 24.71, with one 5-wicket haul already, and has 21 scalps in List A cricket at an economy rate of 4.76.
Having put in consistent performances in the IPL over the last couple of years, Arshdeep Singh has shown that he is not a one-season wonder and can be relied upon.
It may have taken him a couple of years, but Arshdeep has certainly left his U-19 peers Shivam Mavi, Kamlesh Nagarkoti and Ishan Porel a long way behind in the race for a spot in the senior men's team.