Arshdeep’s swelling influence

Left-arm pacer has been the standout for India in the ongoing WC
Arshdeep Singh has taken seven wickets in three matches in the ongoing WC
Arshdeep Singh has taken seven wickets in three matches in the ongoing WC(Photo | PTI)

CHENNAI: When Jasprit Bumrah was ruled out of the 2022 T20 World Cup at the last moment due to back injury, there was a massive void in the Indian pace department. India had Mohammed Shami, who had played every T20 WC since 2014, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Hardik Pandya, but the question was who among them was going to step up to be the imposing wicket-taker. The answer, however, was somewhere else — Arshdeep Singh.

Flown under the radar in the 2018 U-19 pace factory, the left-arm pacer had risen through the ranks rapidly since. After a stellar IPL in 2022, he became a starter in the Indian XI. While sharing a new ball with Bumrah is one thing, but to lead the way in his absence is completely another. The young left-arm pacer set the tone up front with a three-fer against Pakistan. He followed it up with two wickets each against Netherlands, South Africa and Bangladesh and a lone scalp against Zimbabwe. The only game where he went wicketless was in the semifinal against England.

In what was a disappointing end to the campaign, the lone bright side for India was the rise of Arshdeep. And since then, he has only grown leaps and bounds, especially in the shortest format. So much so that, Rohit Sharma, the same captain in 2022, is throwing the new ball to Arshdeep and Bumrah in the ongoing T20 WC.

And Arshdeep has not disappointed. He started with two wickets against Ireland and followed it up with one more against Pakistan. But it all came together against the United States. A crucial four-fer that helped seal India’s place in the Super 8s.

The number of wickets he has taken is one thing, but the manner in which he has taken — in the powerplay — is something else. Barring the match against Pakistan, he has taken wickets in the first six overs in every game. In fact, it is what makes him stand out. The left-arm variation, his ability to move the ball into and away from the right-hander and a sharp bouncer all come together to make him the trump card for India.

The numbers say as much. Since the start of 2022, Arshdeep stands fourth among pacers in all T20s with 129 wickets. Shaheen Shah Afridi (138), Daniel Sams (135), and Haris Rauf (133) are ahead of him in the list.

In T20 internationals, Arshdeep is the second among pacers (69) in the same phase with Ireland’s Mark Adair (71) leading the tally. When it comes to powerplay T20I wickets in the period, Indian tops the list (28) with Fazalhaq Farooqi (26) and Afridi (25) closely behind. To put it all together, he has been the best left-arm pacer in T20Is since the start of 2022.

Former South African pacer Morne Morkel summed it up precisely. “He is a wicket-taker,” said Morkel during the Star Sports Press room show. “He can take wickets in powerplay, middle-overs and death. He can swing the new ball and to me that is the complete package. The guy is consistent, bowls at good pace and shapes the ball and is a wicket-taker. A nice variation too, he is a left-armer, can take it across the right-hander. So for me, them (left arm pacers) staying fit, running in, hitting the deck, shaping the ball is a must,” he added.

And as India are getting ready to face Afghanistan in their first Super 8s encounter on Thursday, that is the one question Rohit Sharma and head coach Rahul Dravid would be pondering about. With Kuldeep Yadav coming in seems likely, who will make way for the left-arm wrist spinner? In all likelihood, it could be Mohammed Siraj. The right-arm pacer has just one wicket so far and might not necessarily be used to the hilt in the Caribbean. Should India opt to play three spinners, Kuldeep, Ravindra Jadeja and Axar Patel are likely to keep their place while Bumrah, Arshdeep and Hardik Pandya share the pace-bowling duties. As far as powerplay proceedings are concerned, it will be business as usual — Arshdeep sharing the new ball with Bumrah and looking for early wickets. For that is what Arshdeep does best in the shortest format.

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