When Arshdeep Singh bowled the first few overs and bagged the prized wickets of Pakistan skipper Babar Azam and his opening partner Mohammed Rizwan to give India a splendid start in the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup at the jam-packed Melbourne Cricket Ground, it was hard to digest the fact that this youngster had made his international debut just a few months ago.
The lanky Guna, MP-born youngster, who had an impressive IPL season for Kings XI Punjab that ensured his call-up for T20 duty at the national level, had made his India debut just over three months ago in Southampton against England.
But the Indian team management, including Captain Rohit Sharma and head coach Rahul Dravid must have been mightily impressed by this left-arm pacer as he has figured in most of the T20s that the country played since his debut on July 7.
In his short international stint, the 23-year-old bowler, who plays for Punjab in domestic cricket, has grabbed 22 wickets in 14 T20Is at an economy rate of 8.13 and a strike rate of 13.6.
To see that he has played just six first-class games in his fledgling career so far but has become an integral part of the India’s T20 outfit not only indicates that he has been highly impressive but also is a pointer to how keen was the team to hone into a left arm pacer who can bowl well both in power play and at the end of an innings.
On Sunday, Arshdeep trapped Azam leg before for a duck with a full length ball that the Pakistan captain tried injudiciously to flick to leg off the first ball the Indian youngster delivered in the high-octane contest at the cauldron-like MCG.
He then followed it up with another big wicket in his second over, that of wicket keeper Mohd Rizwan, with a short ball that the batter hooked to long leg fielder Bhuvneshwar Kumar to provide India with a dream start by reducing Pakistan to a sorry 15 for 2.
With Bhuvneshwar (3-0-14-0) too utilising the seaming conditions to a nicety, Pakistan tottered to 32 for 2 after six overs of power play, the sort of score the Indian think tank would have liked before the game began.
Pakistan recovered later to 159 for 8 that India chased down in a memorable way and won on the last ball in dramatic fashion to send the team’s fans into a frenzy.
Arshdeep followed his splendid first spell of 2-10 with a stint of 1-22 in the last two overs when batters kept swinging their arms at everything bowled at them.
In the final analysis Arshdeep also played a key role in India’s heart-stopping last ball victory, along with man of the match Virat Kohli and Hardik Pandya, who came up with a superb all round display.
What Arshdeep brings to the attack is variety in a largely right-handed pace attack. He swings the ball well and also hits the block hole regularly. He can also bowl the odd bumper to unsettle the batsman as he did to Rizwan.
In the long history of Indian cricket there have not been many left-handed medium fast bowlers of quality. The bowlers who readily come to mind are Karsan Ghavri in the 1970s and then Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra, Irfan Pathan and R P Singh….all in the first decade of the new millennium.
But once that quartet disappeared from the scene, India have not found another left-arm bowler who has impressed as much at the top level as Arshdeep has done so far in his short career.
His present job is to show the sort of brilliance and focus that he essayed against Pakistan in the rest of the World Cup that concludes on November 13.
A whole wide world of opportunities awaits the Punjab youngster, in all three formats of the game including Tests, if he keeps himself motivated and fit.