Why Arshdeep Singh can fill the Jasprit Bumrah-sized hole perfectly

Arshdeep Singh - the youngest in India’s T20 World Cup 2022 squad, and the second least experienced of the lot, will be one of the first names in the starting XI.
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In Arshdeep Singh, India have a highly skilled and mentally strong bowler to be captain’s go-to at any given stage.

Ranked at the top in the format currently, India have been undefeated in bilaterals since the disappointing exit from the last year’s competition. While they remain a much celebrated unit regardless, their chances at the upcoming T20 World Cup in Australia have been somewhat viewed as bleak.

They’re well placed in terms of batting, with key players having struck form, but the secondary suit has weakened further with Jasprit Bumrah being ruled out of the tournament with back injury. Bhuvneshwar Kumar has struggled for form of late, especially at the back end, and there’s still uncertainty over Mohammed Shami, if he replaces Bumrah in the squad, for he hasn’t played any competitive cricket since July.

Harshal Patel’s inconsistent run, and the debates over his methodology leaves India with one reliable member in the seam attack on current form, the youngest of the lot, Arshdeep Singh, now a brand ambassador of Rario, the Cricket NFT platform.

Arshdeep's partnership with Cricket NFT platform Rario will help users acquire special moments of Arshdeep as player cards

In a candid chat with teammate Yuzvendra Chahal on BCCI's special segment 'Chahal TV’, ahead of India’s departure to Australia last week, Arshdeep said: "As soon as I wore the blazer, it felt like my chest was swollen with pride. It was definitely a proud moment."

It has to be a proud moment for a 23-year-old to know that he’d most likely be the team’s most sought after bowler at a World Cup in just his first year of international cricket. The uniqueness of being a left-armer makes him a rarity in the setup to an extent even he would be unaware of.

Only three left-arm quicks - Karsan Ghavri, Zaheer Khan and Ashish Nehra - have played for India in ODI World Cups, the latter two having featured in the team’s runners-up finish in 2003 and the title win in 2011. Nehra was the last to play in a T20 World Cup game - the 2016 semi-final against the West Indies. RP Singh and Irfan Pathan starred in 2007, while Zaheer played in the next three editions.

Overall, 168 cricketers have bowled seam for India, 20 being lefties (11.9%). The corresponding numbers for all in international men’s cricket are 329 and 2923 respectively (11.25%).

Whether left-handed batters are indeed more aesthetically pleasing is a debate for another day, so too, is if the right-left combination in either discipline is extremely resourceful or a concept overrated.

For certainty, left-arm quicks have managed to etch their names in history books despite being a rarity. The first name that comes to mind is the legendary Wasim Akram, and Allan Lamb and Chris Lewis would discover what it was like to face him on the grandest stage. Gary Gilmour’s 6/14 in the 1975 World Cup semis against England is regarded one of the finest spells in white-ball internationals, and Mohammad Amir’s brilliant setup to dismiss Tillakaratane Dilshan in the T20 World Cup 2009 final deserves more praise and recognition than it has over the years.

Mitchell Starc and Trent Boult sizzled at the last two ODI World Cups, and played the T20 World Cup final last year. India, set to begin their campaign against Pakistan at the iconic MCG in less than two weeks time, would still have memories of Shaheen Afridi’s masterclass from last year afresh.

You can buy Arshdeep Singh's player cards in different tiers on Rario from HERE

And so, perhaps India is lucky to find one that belongs to this enviable breed after a long time. But is that the lone factor that makes him a reliable bowler?

There’s much more to Arshdeep than the extremely controlled new-ball swing, that outfoxed Quinton De Kock, Rilee Rossouw and David Miller in Thiruvananthapuram last month, and the consistency he’s shown while bowling the tough death overs in the IPL and in a fairly nascent international career.

“Great feel for knowing when to bowl what type of delivery,” was the quality singled out by Ian Bishop during the IPL 2022, while lauding the accuracy with the yorkers and change of pace.

Arshdeep’s consistency while leading a patchy and scratchy Punjab Kings attack over the last two IPL seasons, which have fetched him 28 wickets at an combined economy of eight was good enough to fastrack him to India’s T20I outfit. The wickets at the top included Ruturaj Gaikwad (twice), Prithvi Shaw, Evin Lewis, Shubman Gill, Moeen Ali, while those at death featured a well set Sanju Samson and Faf du Plessis, alongside Liam Livingstone, Hardik Panyda and Dinesh Karthik (twice).

The level-headedness regardless of the situation, a trait that separates Bumrah from most, is one that a young Arshdeep has shown on numerous occasions. Moments after having shelled a straightforward catch to give Asif Ali a reprieve in a crucial Asia Cup 2022 encounter, Arshdeep almost redeemed himself with a brilliant last over to revive India’s hopes, and almost pulled off in a second attempt against Sri Lanka a day later.

Skipper Rohit Sharma, who couldn’t control his emotions after the dropped catch on field, would be in all praise for Arshdeep following his fine run in the tournament.

“He is a very confident lad, and that is why he is here, ahead of a lot of players who are sitting at their homes,” Rohit had said. “I have not seen many like him early in his career. As a captain and a coach we are very happy with how he takes his game and goes about his business with the ball.”

The skipper’s trust speaks volumes of Arshdeep’s potential and offers India well more than a glimmer of hope despite doubts raised over the indifferent form and the inexperience in the seam attack. In Arshdeep, India have a highly skilled and mentally strong bowler to be captain’s go-to at any given stage.

India’s last two World Cup wins - T20 in 2007 and ODI in 2011 - had left-arm quicks play a significant part. RP Singh (12 wickets, economy 6.33) and Zaheer Khan (21 wickets at 18.76) led the wicket-taking charts in respective competitions, while Irfan Pathan’s 3/16 in the T20 World Cup 2007 final fetched him the Player of the Match award.

Arshdeep, whose player cards are available on Rario now, might not necessarily instil fear and worry in an opposition camp as Bumrah does, but the persistence, game awareness and a sense of calm is enough to serve him and the team just fine.

“I have always wondered what it would be like to give a Man of the Match speech, so I’m very excited,” said Arshdeep when he received his first POTM in Thiruvananthapuram.

“The first of many, I hope,” Dale Steyn would remark later.

The encouraging rise thus far presents bright hopes for the future, and Arshdeep might well be the X-factor India need in Bumrah’s absence at the T20 World Cup. Arshdeep, who is now partnered with Cricket NFT Platform Rario, is quickly turning into someone who can hog highlights packages with his stirring performances.