It was in 2019 that Punjab Kings took the punt on Arshdeep Singh. A fast bowler with a lanky frame who had impressed in India’s Under-19 setup.
That year, he got just three games. For the three wickets he pocketed, he conceded runs at an economy touching nearly 11 per over. The Kings, still, persisted with the left-armer.
He repaid the faith. Over the following two seasons, Arshdeep took massive strides. In 2020, he picked nine wickets in eight games and brought down his economy rate to below nine runs per over. In the next, the wickets counter ticked-up to 18 from 12 games and the economy rate further dropped to 8.27.
For his exploits, Arshdeep was retained by Punjab ahead of the 2022 mega auction in February. By July, the India call-up followed. In 26 appearances for the national side, Arshdeep has 41 wickets to his name. He is on course to become the fastest Indian to 50 wickets in T20 Internationals (Yuzvendra Chahal holds the record at 34 matches).
In 2022 IPL, boasted of an economy rate of 7.70. His wickets tally might have nosedived to 10, but Arshdeep served a bigger prupose for the team.
The 24-year-old became a consistent, economic and go-to option in trouble for Punjab. He could pitch in with an over or two in the PowerPlay and then strangle the run flow towards the death. He was trusted to be a match winner.
Untill 2022, Arshdeep had complemented a senior partner. Now, he played the lead. He was asked to shoulder responsibility.
On Saturday, Arshdeep showed why Punjab persisted with him four years back. And why, he is ready to take on that role.
Much of the pre-season skepticism around Kolkata Knight Riders held true when the side appeared to be faltering in its 192-run chase against Punjab Kings.
It’s top-order folding cheaply was largely down to Arshdeep hitting the ground running. On his very first delivery, Arshdeep fired in bouncer and caused Mandeep Singh to hole out at deep square leg.
In the same over, he sent Anukul Roy packing. He used the same weapon - a short-pitched delivery fired in at the batter’s midrif. Kolkata was reduced to 17 for two after two overs.
He returned for a second over and conceded just five. Kolkata was 29 for two at this stage and the damage had been done. Shikhar was convinced in holding back Arshdeep’s services for the later part of the innings. Nathan Ellis cutting short Rahmanullah Gurbaz’s quickfire knock too helped in reaching the decision.
The spin duo of Sikandar Raza and Rahul Chahar consolidated further and had Kolkata staring down the barrel at 80 for five.
But hope flickered in the Knight Riders dugout as Venkatesh Iyer and Andre Russell stitched a 50-run partnership for the sixth wicket. At this point, hey needed 62 off 32 and remained in the hunt.
Arshdeep yet again came in to dent the Kolkata innings. This time it was in partnership with Sam Curran. The IPL’s most expensive buy removed Russell before Arshdeep prised out Iyer’s wicket. Again, Arshdeep used the short ball to great effect, cramping Iyer for room who was looking to free his arms. A miscue saw the batter hole out to the point fielder.
In hindsight, given DLS decided the fate of the match, Iyer’s wicket is likely to have spiked the par score for Kolkata. Punjab prevailed by seven runs and registered its first win of the season.
Arshdeep finished the innings with three for 19 and took home the Player of the Match award. If he can emulate such performances, Arshdeep could improve his wickets haul and emerge a contender for the Purple cap.
The prospect would certainly bring a smile on Dhawan’s face. The skipper would hope that his premier pace bowler continues in same vein and guides the team to similar victories.
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