Growing up in the narrow lanes of India, there won't be many who would have skipped the fun of having a go at tennis-ball cricket. Be it smashing window panes with a swing of the bat or be it destroying — in most cases — make-shift wickets with some bowling magic, everyone has a tale or two to share. But not many would credit this to have played a major role in helping them improve their game at a competitive level. Except for Arshdeep Singh.
Growing up in Kharar, a township in the outskirts of Chandigarh, a young Arshdeep would engage in several tennis-ball matches with his friends during his childhood days.
"It's usually late in the evenings that we used to play cricket," he recalls. "Bas maze karne the (we just wanted to have fun). I think that also helped in significantly improving my pace.
"Although I started off playing with the leather ball, I used to play a number of tennis ball tournaments as well. I think it's a brilliant medium to improve your pace and consistency as well.
"If you bowl back on a length or if you bowl a bit slower, you'll almost always get hit for sixes. So the only trick is to bowl yorkers at a fast speed to avoid getting smashed. That's how tennis-ball cricket helped me bowl faster," he reveals.
Like many of the young cricketers in the country, he was sucked into the game after watching Team India on the television.
"I used to imagine a lot watching the matches on TV. 'Aaise khelna hai, aaise bowl karna hai... (I should play that shot, bowl that way...)," he he reminisces.
This craze would soon find a direction when Arshdeep, just 11 back then, joined a cricket academy in Punjab where his talent was given credence.
"Starting out, I used to do a little bit of batting and bowling; but my coaches backed and trusted me on my bowling abilities," says Arshdeep, who idolised left-arm pacer Irfan Pathan in his formative years; never attempted to emulate his style for the fear of losing his own natural action.
With his family firmly behind him in his quest for cricketing greatness, Arshdeep found the liberty to concentrate on his game and hone his skills under the watchful eyes of the coaches at the academy. And it was no surprise when the Punjab lad was picked up for the Indian team bound for the U-19 World Cup in 2018.