T20 World Cup 2024: Arshdeep in the swing of things

The left-armer has emerged as India's go-to bowler with the new ball in T20 cricket for his ability to extract swing. 
Last Updated : 13 June 2024, 16:21 IST

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New York: Arshdeep Singh could well have been playing against India on June 15. Instead, he will be playing for them against Canada. That’s entirely dependent on if the storm settles down at Lauderhill by then, but that’s besides the point. 

This is about the one conversation in circa 2016 which changed the course of the left-arm seamer’s life.

When Arshdeep was consistently ignored by Punjab at age-group cricket, his father Darshan Singh, a Central Industrial Security Forces officer and a former cricketer himself, had had enough of all this wide-eyed-dreamer stuff. 

He insisted Arshdeep join his elder brother Akashdeep Singh in Brampton, Canada and pursue academics and maybe get a job. You know, typical ambitions of a middle-class Punjabi household. 

Arshdeep pleaded with his father to let him stick to cricket in Chandigarh for another year. The deal was this: get selected to play for Punjab at the Under-19 level within that time frame or pack bags for Brampton. 

Arshdeep would go on to play the Under-19 World Cup in 2018, putting an end to the Punjabi-in-Canada stereotype. 

Now, just a few years after that World Cup-winning experience, Arshdeep is at another World Cup, this one has more at stake though. It’s the T20 World Cup in the Americas, and his family is in the stands for it. 

As they watched on from the stands at the Nassau County International stadium in Long Island, the spindly 25-year-old put on a show for them, picking up four wickets for nine runs in four overs. 

That would be impressive enough to laud in general, but the fact that Arshdeep came up with these figures when India were under the pump against the United States of America on Wednesday, is telling of the cloth he is cut from.

One needn’t look beyond his train-till-you-faint episodes of youth, but work ethic aside, Arshdeep has a malleable attitude towards learning the nuances within pace bowling, and that has helped speed up his learning curve. 

After a decent enough 2020 in the Indian Premier League with the Punjab Kings, he was retained. The following season he had come back having perfected his yorkers and he bagged 18 wickets from 12 games. Season after season since he has been on point, but his best came this year with 19 wickets from 14 games, including one four-wicket haul. 

Arshdeep’s talent, while ignored when young, was not lost on the Indian management. He made his Twenty20 International debut against England in Southampton in July, 2022 and his One-Day International not much later in Auckland.

But just as quickly as Arshdeep entered the conversation of 'frontline seamers', he was relegated to the bench, mostly because he wasn’t himself for a while. His natural swing wasn’t so natural anymore, and his pace was dropping too. 

The wise men in the Indian management decided to help him out with his confidence so allowed him to get his shape back at County cricket. What better place than England to sort out a confidence-related problem with a swing bowler?

It worked, and here he is now.

Having dismissed Shayan Jahangir with a beautiful in-swinger off the very first ball of the day, Arshdeep had set the tone for the game. He wouldn’t have as much assistance as he did against Ireland in India’s tournament opener, but there was something in it for everyone so Arshdeep cashed in with his metronomic line and length. 

He does get a bit carried away when there is assistance on offer, but when there are enough wise heads around, telling him to stick to the basics, he gets the memo quickly enough. 

That same over, he bowled a length ball shaping away from Andries Gous and got the right-hander walking. At 3 for 2, India were planning a quick end to the day. It wouldn’t be the case, but it didn’t matter to Arshdeep because the three other overs he bowled yielded six runs and a couple of wickets.

That is Test match stuff. That's probably why Sunil Gavaskar suggested that the Indian team should consider Arshdeep for Tests. 

"His temperament is fantastic," said Gavaskar on Star Sports. “I do believe that he, like (Jasprit) Bumrah can be a very, very good bowler in red-ball cricket as well. Because if he can move the white ball so well, just imagine what he can do with the red ball. So I think the selection committee would do very well to look at him as an option for the red-ball game as well.”

Maybe it happens, maybe it doesn’t. It won’t matter to Arshdeep though. He has come farther than he dreamt possible and is profusely grateful for it. We should be too. Sorry, Canada. 

Published 13 June 2024, 16:21 IST

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