If not for Arshdeep Singh’s grit and determination, Punjab Kings would not have one of its most trusted pacers, with the ability to pull a stalemate on any batter on the crease.
He could have done what Punjabis are stereotypically known to do, which is to finish high school, move to Canada and set up base there, like his older sibling had already done.
When age-group cricket opportunities did not come as easily to Arshdeep, his father suggested he follow his brother. However, Arshdeep asked his parents to give him just one more year to prove that he could make a life out of playing cricket, and since then there has been no looking back.
The turnaround year
That conversation happened in 2017. What followed was good performances in domestic cricket being rewarded with a spot in the U19 World Cup. In January 2018, he travelled with the team that brought home the coveted prize. He played two games and picked three wickets on the tour, but his game was enough to catch the eyes of the state team selectors.
Soon, he was roped into Punjab’s state team. In September 2019, Arshdeep made his List A debut playing against Himachal Pradesh in the Vijay Hazare Trophy. He registered impressive figures of 9.3-0-51-2 to help Punjab to a 35-run win.
That year, in the IPL auction, the Punjab Kings picked up the youngster despite him having played just three first-class matches in the previous season. In a bowling line-up that had Mohammed Shami, Andrew Tye and Sam Curran as their go-to fast bowlers, the 19-year-old got only three games in IPL 2019 but he picked up three wickets to get some confidence.
While his IPL didn’t bring him to the fore as much as it did for the other youngsters, he followed this up with good performances in India U-23 matches that followed. “I hadn't played a lot of domestic cricket either. But I got some confidence when I did well for India Under-23 in the series against Bangladesh U-23 in Lucknow last year,” Singh said, in an interview to ESPNCricinfo.
IPL 2020 - making his presence felt
The left-arm pacer from Punjab trained hard with his father, a former cricketer himself, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. After the restrictions eased a little in the state, he was a part of the training camp set up by Yuvraj Singh for young players from the state. Despite the fate of IPL 2020 still hanging in the air, he put in all the extra yards.
While he honed his skills, IPL 2020 was announced and he joined the PBKS camp. Soon, he struck a good rapport with the bowlers there, including Shami and Chris Jordan who had much to teach him. “Shami bhai is a world-class bowler, and has a lot of experience that he is willing to pass on to the youngsters,” he said.
He knew he was moving in the right direction. He clicked in the practice games to come up in the management’s radar. “The month-long camp before the IPL really helped, because the coaching staff had enough time to look and assess every single player in the squad. I picked a lot of wickets in the practice games, so I guess it all started from there. Anil Kumble had told me before the season itself that I could get chances early and asked me to be ready. I carried the confidence of having bowled well in the nets and practice matches.”
It was this confidence that gave him the push to perform well in IPL 2020. That season, he played eight games, bagged nine wickets and conceded 8.77 runs per over. Importantly, it was the birth of a trustworthy death bowler for the Punjab Kings.
IPL 2021 - Strengthening his hold
In the next season, Singh played 12 of the 14 games in the group stage of the league and picked 18 wickets, featuring sixth on the list of top wicket takers of the season. In a game against the Rajasthan Royals, the then 20-year-old picked five wickets, registering his best figures of 5/32.
His impressive numbers were enough to make him one among the only two players to be retained by the Punjab Kings for the Tata IPL 2022.
2022 - Ranji Trophy and the Tata IPL
2022 started on a good note for Arshdeep, who took 12 wickets including a five-wicket haul for Punjab as the team topped its group and advanced to the quarterfinals.
As for the Tata Indian Premier League, in eight games this left-arm bowler may have picked just three wickets, but don’t let numbers deceive you, for he has been miserly in the death overs. In the most recent game against the Chennai Super Kings, he gave away just six and eight runs off the 17th and 19th overs, essentially giving Rishi Dhawan, who bowled the final over, 27 runs to defend off six.
The journey has just begun for Arshdeep Singh in cricket. He has skill, pace, precision and age on his side, and it is safe to say that we will see more of him in the coming days. His goals go beyond IPL glory, with his eyes set on red-ball cricket.
“I want to be successful in red-ball cricket, and take Punjab to the Ranji Trophy knockouts first," he said. "I don't know when we last even won, so I want to be part of history. Take them to the knockouts and once there, maybe even a Ranji title. In white-ball cricket, I want to be consistent and be a dependable bowler.”
One nerveless over at a time, this glorious youngster is taking giant strides towards making his dreams come true. If not for that one hard conversation with his father, we would have lost a gem of a death bowler to Canada!