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Arshdeep Singh: 'Earlier I used to bowl loose balls now and then, but now I don't give the batters those'

The Punjab Kings seamer, who has been picked for India's T20I squad, talks about his success as a death bowler this IPL season

Arshdeep Singh in his home in Kharar, Chandigarh, June 11, 2021

Arshdeep Singh: "At the end of the day, you should feel satisfied with the way you bowled, because wickets or runs won't give you the full picture every time"  •  Keshav Singh/Hindustan Times/Getty Images

Punjab Kings were on their way to the Wankhede Stadium for the last league game of IPL 2022 when Arshdeep Singh heard he had been picked for India's T20I squad for the South Africa series. With a match on hand, he couldn't let the excitement overwhelm him at the time, but as the series gets closer, the feeling has been sinking in.
Arshdeep was retained by Punjab ahead of the season, and he repaid that trust by becoming their go-to bowler in the death overs. Among those who bowled at least ten overs at the death, his economy of 7.58 in that phase was second only to Jasprit Bumrah's 7.38. Overall, he picked up ten wickets in 14 games at an economy of 7.70. Arshdeep spoke about what went into the making of his breakout season.
Was there any pressure of being a retained player for Punjab Kings?
There was no pressure as such. Whenever you get a chance for a team, you try to give your 100%, no matter if it's your first year or tenth, if you have been retained or have come through the auction. If a team has shown confidence in you, you have to do well for them and give your 100%.
How do you see your growth as a bowler in the last couple of years?
I feel I am a lot more consistent now. Earlier I used to bowl loose balls in between. Now I have worked on that a lot so that I don't give the batter that release ball. All the batters who come to play in the IPL are quite experienced. They are aware and are good enough to hit you for a boundary whenever they get a bad ball. That's one thing I have worked on a lot, that I consistently bowl in good areas with a good plan. In the coming days, the focus will be on how to improve it further.
What specific drills did you do to become more consistent?
I did a lot of single-wicket practice. Lots of repetitions of length ball and yorker. After doing it so many times in practice, you start understanding where your ball will land if you run at this particular speed with this particular angle.. I guess with all those repetitions, you start getting that feeling and that makes a lot of difference.
Are you working on improving your bowling speed as well?
Right now, I am trying to focus on consistency. The main thing is how consistent I am in hitting those lines and lengths, and in executing my plans.
What about the fitness part?
As a sportsperson, the goal is to stay as fit as possible. Every season, every month, every day, you try to work on it so that when you wake up in the morning, you feel energetic and not fatigued. So that's the main focus - to maintain a good fitness level and that's what I have been working on.
Have you made any changes to your diet to achieve that?
As you know, it's not easy to follow a diet in Punjabi households.
Adrian Le Roux, our trainer at Punjab Kings, says that the best way of recovery is to sleep for at least eight hours [in a day] and keep yourself hydrated. I try to tick those boxes and it has helped my game a lot.
You and Jasprit Bumrah bowled the joint-most yorkers this IPL season. Is that a delivery you worked specifically on?
As I said earlier, repetitions make a lot of difference, because your control improves tremendously and you start getting the confidence that you can bowl it in the match as well. You practise with a normal ball, or with a slightly wet ball if there's a chance of dew in the game. Sometimes you bowl to a batsman, sometimes you do single-wicket practice. Sometimes you can place boots or some other target to aim at. You can even challenge other bowlers in the nets to see who can hit the target the most times. That adds a fun element.
You were the designated death-overs bowler for your team this season. Was that something communicated to you in advance?
I guess the team's combination was such that I was supposed to bowl one over at the start, one in the middle and two at the death. I was told before the tournament what my role would be. So in the practice games, I bowled accordingly. I thank the team management a lot for the role clarity they gave me. That helped me immensely as I knew when I have to bowl and so I could plan accordingly.
When did you start feeling confident that you could bowl well at the death?
I guess the first thing is, you must have that self-belief. Only then others will show confidence in you. Whenever you step onto the field, you step on with the confidence that no matter who is up against you, you will back your skills and do well for your team. You reach this level only if you have the required skills. After that, it is about who can adapt to the situation in the middle and excel.
In the death overs, you mixed your yorkers with slower ones very well. How do you decide which delivery to bowl when?
It depends on the pitch. If the wicket is slow and you want to use it, or you want to use the bigger boundary, you bowl slower balls. If the wicket is flat, you go for the yorker. A bowler has to be adaptable as per the demands of the situation. Sometimes you have senior players around you, like we had [Kagiso] Rabada, so they tell you what is working on that particular day on that pitch, so you could try those. I guess from that you get a fair idea of what sort of variations you can use.
You spoke about Rabada being around. From 2019 to 2021, you played with Mohammed Shami for Punjab. What sorts of chats did you have with them?
I mainly asked them when they are in a good rhythm, what their frame of mind is. Similarly, when they are having a bad day, what they think. I have tried to pick those things from them and I guess they will help me a lot in future. But the biggest thing I have learnt from them is to enjoy the game.
So do you enjoy bowling death overs?
I enjoy bowling everywhere. Whenever I get a chance to perform for my team, I try to enjoy it. When you step onto the cricket field, be it a 50-over match or a 20-over match, you should try to enjoy the game, because this is something you love to do. Also, when you love your job and enjoy it, you don't feel tired. That feel of representing the team, be it Punjab Kings, or Punjab, or the whole country in future, that's a proud feeling, and it works as a boost.
Did you have different plans for different batters at the death, or did you stick to one broad plan?
Usually in the IPL, we have these bowlers' meetings where you make plans based on the ground dimensions and the batsmen's strong and weak points. Based on that you decide what to bowl to which batsman. But after that, it depends on how the wicket will play because you cannot plan for that. So it's very important to adapt to the situation in the middle.
Punjab Kings had many power-hitters in the squad this season. Did bowling to them in the nets help you?
Yes, that did help a lot, because when you bowl to such good players, you get an idea of what areas not to bowl in.
You had an excellent economy this season but picked up only ten wickets in 14 games. Do you think a bowler can achieve only one of those two?
It's not like that. You cannot judge if you bowled well or not by your figures. Mainly it's about how your effort was and if you gave your 100%, and whether you could execute your plans or not, because execution is in your control, results are not.
Then how do you measure success?
At the end of the day when you go to the bed, you should feel satisfied with the way you bowled, because wickets or runs won't give you the full picture every time. But you know if you gave your 100% or not, or if you could execute your plans or not. It could be that you were trying to bowl a yorker but it turned out to be a half-volley and you got a wicket. Now that result is good for the team. Everyone knows you took a wicket but you know that you made a mistake and couldn't execute what you wanted to. So before hitting the bed, when you recall what you did in the middle, that gives you the true picture. Stats cannot tell you those things, those things you feel yourself.

Hemant Brar is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo