Arshdeep masks his inexperience to emerge as India’s brightest star

With the win over Bangladesh at Adelaide on Wednesday, India have put themselves in prime position for a spot in the semifinals of the T20 World Cup in Australia.

The fortunes with the bat has been carried by the imperious Virat Kohli and the sublime Surya Kumar Yadav.

The bowling, which many felt could prove to be India’s Achilles heel minus the presence of Jasprit Bumrah, has stood up to perform admirably in all games so far.

While Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohammed Shami have lent the much needed experience to the outfit, it is the performance of a 23-year-old left-arm seamer which has caught the attention of the cricketing world.

Arshdeep Singh is featuring in his maiden senior ICC tournament (he was part of India’s U19 World Cup winning squad in 2018), but seems to carry an air of confidence similar to a pro, who has been done there and done that, multiple times over.

The left-arm pacer is currently India’s leading wicket-taker in the tournament with 9 scalps in four matches and is five shy of becoming the leading wicket-taker in the competition. His performances have made the likes of Anil Kumble, his former coach at Punjab Kings, envision a career as big as Zaheer Khan for him.

However while the world gets euphoric over his showings in the tournament so far, one must not forget that his international career only began in July 2022 and is only 17 T20Is old. However, key aspect to note in those matches is the evolution that Arshdeep has witnessed in his bowling already.

At the start of those matches, the world saw a bowler with a high-arm, chest on action, who could nail the yorkers regularly at the back end of the innings, but in recent weeks, with the likes of Bumrah, Shami missing, he has shown that when there are helpful conditions on offer, he can swing the new ball and cause havoc at the start of the innings, as was evident in the game against South Africa where he reduced them to 3–2.

On Wednesday, after an expensive opening spell, he returned in the middle phase of Bangladesh’s chase and removed Atif Hossein and Shakib Al Hasan in quick succession to derail the chase and bring India back into the game.

Among all the left-arm pacers in this tournament, Arshdeep is the least experienced, but clearly he seems to be flourishing in every responsibility that has been given to him.

It must also surely help him that in Rahul Dravid and bowling coach Paras Mhambarey, he has two men who have seen his development from his Under-19 days and so on days when it does not go his way, he has good allies to fall back upon.

We are nearing one year since the previous regime of coaching staff comprising Ravi Shastri, Bharat Arun and R Sridhar parted ways with the side. Arun, in particular, played a leading role in establishing India as a outstanding bowling unit capable of excelling all around the world.

But if there was one type of bowler that Arun could not unearth and make world class during his stint with the side, it was a left arm seamer. Early on, in 2016, India tried Barinder Sran, but it did not worked.

Later, Khaleel Ahmed came into the fray, but he too could not take the next step. T Natarajan emerged in Arun’s final year with the side, but untimely injuries have pushed his career back.

Arshdeep’s emergence and early success has meant that India can now aim to fit the missing piece in bowling puzzle, for the long run.

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