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Death-over specialist, poet, PUBG player: Multi-talented Arshdeep Singh ready for India duty

Punjab Kings' Arshdeep Singh has earned his maiden India call-up because of a cool head on his shoulders and the skill set that makes him a formidable bowler in the final few overs of a T20 innings

Arshdeep Singh of Punjab Kings celebrates the wicket of Sarfaraz Khan of Delhi Capitals. (IPL | PTI)

Bowling in the death-overs in T20 cricket leaves no margin for error. But Arshdeep Singh, 23, relishes the challenge of delivering the most difficult overs of a match. His Punjab Kings teammate Kagiso Rabada, a South African star, calls him the “best death-over bowler in the competition”. His captain Mayank Agarwal made him the “leader of the bowling group”. His childhood coach Jaswant Rai says his ward is a “quick learner.”

Arshdeep has 10 wickets in 14 games but his real value comes when batsmen put pedal to metal in the last phase of the innings. Arshdeep Singh has the second-best death-overs economy rate (7.58) of any bowler with at least eight overs this season. Only the Test-capped Jasprit Bumrah (7.38) has done better.

Arshdeep has the skills and the temperament as change of pace, bouncers and slower balls are delivered with a calm head on shoulders. He was rewarded with a call up to the 18-member squad for the upcoming five-match T20I home series against South Africa.

As he travels across different venues across the country, in his bag will also be a pen and diary. He sees himself as a poet and likes to jot down his thoughts.

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“Koi aakhda ae lucky, koi tukka lgea aakhde ne. Mehnat kr andekhi saare, kismat nu hi puchkarde ne! Changey sameya ch saare maar baazi lende, Tagde ohi jo time maadeya nu picharhde ne. Vadde jigre valea nu thalle rakhna saukha ni, Maade jehreya vaale hi aaukhiyan ch haarde ne! (For some, I’m lucky, for some, it’s just a fluke. All they ignore is my hard work. All they talk about is fate and destiny. When time is good, anyone can succeed, but the character is tested when one overcomes tough times.

Courageous individuals will not back down easily. And a character like me won’t lose hope in tough times.),” reads one of the poems he shared.

“I always carry my pen and diary. I just love to write down whatever thoughts come to my mind. Writing poetry helps me to take a break away from cricket,” Arshdeep told The Indian Express.

Pace not everything

Arshdeep has shown that pace is not everything in T20 cricket. It is not that he can’t bowl at 140 kmph. He says his pace and inswingers is what got him an Under-19 World Cup spot four years ago.

When asked what is behind his success, Arshdeep said: “I try to keep everything simple. I don’t overthink because your vision will get blurred. I try to keep my thoughts clear, and most importantly, 14-15 sleep (in installments) before the match, sometimes playing PUBG also helps.”

Arshdeep Singh of Punjab Kings celebrating the wicket of Mitchell Santner. (Photo by Saikat Das / Sportzpics for IPL)

Arshdeep doesn’t recall how he started enjoying bowling in the death-overs. But he feels he got hooked on it because he loves a challenge.

“I have played more games, and with the experience, I started to back myself. As a youngster, when you fail to execute your plan, it adds pressure. But if you are an experienced campaigner you can afford to back yourself and execute the plans accordingly. The other most important part is the trust of the management. Punjab Kings’ coaches and captain trusted me with this responsibility, which boosted my confidence,” Arshdeep added.

Though not an express quick, he managed to outsmart some of the cleanest strikers of the game. “I do plan specifically about the batsmen, their strengths and weaknesses. But pre-match planning does not always work. A lot depends upon the wicket; also movement. Is it a hit the deck kind of surface, or is it on the slower side? Cross seam will work or do I have to nail those yorkers? A lot also depends on the ground dimensions,” he explained.

“Adaptability is a key in T20 cricket. Never bowl to the strong area of any batters. If he wants to hit a six, let him hit on the bigger side of the ground. Even if I concede runs, I execute my plans. It has worked for me, and it has given me results. As far as I am concerned I back my strengths, instead of thinking about the reputation of any batter,” Arshdeep added.

Arshdeep had one of the worst starts in the IPL. He began the campaign with five wides. But he bounced back and kept it tidy against the likes of Andre Russell, Ambati Rayudu, Ravindra Jadeja, Shubman Gill, Hardik Pandya, MS Dhoni and Rahul Tewatia, all capable of the big hits.

Arshdeep Singh of Punjab Kings celebrates the wicket of Dinesh Karthik of Royal Challengers Bangalore. (IPL | PTI)

He likes playing with the mind of a batsman.

“You have to take a gamble in T20 cricket. Sometimes, I will put a fine leg back, the batter will expect a short ball, but I bowl the yorker length. As long as it works a bluff is fine. But if you fail, then you do look stupid. Bluff in T20 cricket is important but you can’t overdo it, otherwise, you will become predictable,” says Arshdeep.

Split the over

Throughout the tournament, Arshdeep has produced death-over masterclasses. Occasionally, he would finish second best in these battles. Even when he concedes runs early in an over, he has a plan to keep him relaxed.

“I divide my over. If I have conceded boundaries in the first two or three balls, then divide my over into two phases. I try to finish on a high; dot balls or even singles will work. Finishing the over is important, it eases off the pressure on you.”

Arshdeep was picked as a net bowler for India’s tour to Sri Lanka last year. He was later added to the squad when half a dozen Indian cricketers tested positive for Covid-19 but is yet to make his India debut.

“I haven’t slept a wink. I was reading and replying to messages all night. On Monday morning, I reached Chandigarh. There was a festive mood in the family. It will take some time to sink in,” Arshdeep said about his first few hours after the team was announced.

Early struggle

It has never been easy for Arshdeep. To save cost and to stay fit, he would cycle for practice while hauling the heavy kit bag too. The distance from his house in Kharar to Chandigarh’s Guru Nanak Public School, Sector 36, where he trains, is 15 kilometres.

On his journey to the senior Indian team, he recites one of his ‘best works’: “Rakh rabb te yakeen naal mehnatan da zor hove. Apne aap nu kra challenge Mukabala na koi hor hove! Hovan saarean toh vakh Jitt hateran de dil lavan, Hon jinnia v aukdan mukaam apne nu mil lavan! (Have faith in the almighty, do hard work. Challenge yourself rather than competing with others. Be the best among the best, and conquer the hearts of haters. With dedication and hard work, you will reach the destination, no matter how challenging the circumstances are!)

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