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Cycling to success: Hard work and no shortcuts reason for Arshdeep’s India selection

Arshdeep, who has impressed one and all with his control and economy, especially during the death overs, has been named alongside pacers Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Harshal Patel, Avesh Khan and Umran Malik.

Arshdeep Singh, PBKS, IPLArshdeep Singh has been included in the Indian squad for the five-match ODI series against South Africa alongside pacers Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Harshal Patel, Avesh Khan and Umran Malik.

On Sunday evening, Punjab Kings medium pacer Arshdeep Singh called his mother Baljeet Kaur prior to the IPL match against Sunrisers Hyderabad. While Kaur was in her evening prayers, her son would share the news of his selection in the Indian squad for the five-match ODI series against South Africa. Soon, it became a virtual celebration with team-mates Harpeet Brar and Baltej Singh joining the phone call.

Arshdeep, who has impressed one and all with his control and economy, especially during the death overs, has been named alongside pacers Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Harshal Patel, Avesh Khan and Umran Malik.

“Arshdeep calls me prior to every match and did so this evening as I was doing a path. He told me, ‘Mom, wadhai howe, I have been selected in the Indian team.’ I could not hold my tears and it was when his team-mates joined the call and started doing bhangra in the team bus that I realised how big the moment it is for Arshdeep. He never tires and the only thing he would ask me is to massage him after his training sessions,” Baljeet told The Indian Express.

“So, it will mean now I have to give him longer massage sessions when he comes home to prepare for India (laughs). It has been a tough journey for him and to see him wearing the India cap will be the biggest joy for us.”

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Arshdeep’s childhood coach Jaswant Rai (in middle) with the parents of Punjab’s left-arm pacer. (Express photo)

Son of security officer Darshan Singh, the young Arshdeep would be initiated into cricket by his father, who observed him bowling inswing at practice sessions in a park near their Kharar residence. Singh would get him enrolled under coach Jaswant Rai in Chandigarh, which meant that a young Arshdeep would cycle from Kharar to Chandigarh twice a day for training.

“When Arshdeep joined the academy, I was impressed with his ability to swing the ball. He had a high-arm action and his height too was good at that time. I remember that he would try to ball all the six balls in an over differently. He wasn’t accurate at that time but his ability to bowl inswing made me think that this guy can go far in his career,” remembers Rai.

There was one incident that made the coach sure that the youngster will play for India one day. “It was summer and Arshdeep reached a bit late for morning practice, which starts at 5.30 am. When I asked him, he told me, ‘Sir, koi vi punishment de do.” After the practice session, I noticed that his cycle in the parking lot was missing. I asked him about his cycle and he told me that his cycle had broken and he had come walking to the academy from his home in Kharar. He could have told me earlier but he chose not to. That day made me believe that he has the passion to play for India,” says Rai.

Quick graduation

While the youngster would be a part of the U-19 World Cup- winning team in 2018, where he would only get to play two matches and picked three wickets, Arshdeep would make his Vijay Hazare Trophy debut the same year before being picked by Kings XI Punjab in 2019 on the insistence of then coach Mike Hesson. Three wickets in three matches was followed by Singh having an impressive IPL in UAE in 2020, where he picked nine wickets with an economy rate of 8.77 to finish as the third-highest wicket-taker for the side. Last year, Arshdeep emerged as the second-highest wicket-taker for the team with 18 wickets in 12 matches at an average of 19.00 and economy rate of 8.27.

Parents of Punjab’s left-arm pacer. (Express photo)

“Post the U-19 world cup, we worked upon his angles and also focused on his wrist position. Exposure in IPL and Vjay Hazare Trophy made him a mature bowler. I myself was a left-arm spinner so would tell him how to use the index finger for inswing and the wrist for the outswing. We would make him bowl in a box at 5m, 6m, 7m, 8m on practice wickets. If he needed to swing, he would target the 5m box. If the ball got old, he will target 6m, and to target length and hard length, he would ball in the 7m and 8m box. Apart from his own videos in slow motion, I would also show him videos of Wasim Akram to show him how he used the wicket going closer to the stumps and going away later, apart from how he would bowl bouncers and then pitch the ball up to the batsman,” remembers Rai.

This IPL season, it’s his ability to control batsmen in the death overs which has been the key for Arshdeep. His average in the death overs remains one of the best in the league and having displayed his ability to take wickets and not leak runs in the death overs, the spotlight will be on Arshdeep during the T20I series against South Africa.

“Ahead of this year’s IPL, our focus was to work more on his bowling tactics. We worked on him bowling accurate yorkers by making him target a shoe in front of the wicket for 30-40 times per training session and how to bowl a straight yorker as well as targeting the off-stump, as well as slow yorkers. The way he dismissed Ravindra Jadeja with a length ball also displayed his control. In Mumbai, the ball is not gripping on the pitch hence he is using yorkers, length and hard length balls to his advantage. Against South Africa, since the series will be played at different venues, he needs to use inswing on pitches where the ball grips and length and hard length on pitches where it doesn’t,” says Rai.

As for father Darshan, he knows how Arshdeep will prepare for the series. “One thing which he has made a habit of is not breaking his own rules. He would cycle to the academy no matter what and would only get a scooter when he turned 18. He won’t celebrate much till he is able to do his best for India in his maiden series and would spend time ahead of the series seeing his own videos to rectify any mistakes,” he says.

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