The bare stats will tell you Arshdeep Singh
just has three wickets in eight games at IPL 2022. It won't tell you how well he has bowled at the death. It won't tell you how he's gone from being a 130s kph bowler to a 140 kph bowler. It won't tell you the kind of pressure he has built up front with the new ball with his late swing in.
His economy of 5.66 in the death overs, across 36 deliveries, are the best in the competition. A clear understanding of plans, ice-cool approach, and the confidence to nail yorkers at will have all contributed to his development as one of the key personnel for Punjab Kings. Could this translate into something bigger, like being rewarded with an India call up in the T20I format? Ian Bishop
and Daniel Vettori
see no reason why it can't happen.
"I think when India picks their team, they are going to look at who picks up wickets in the powerplay and who's going to close down the game at the death and they probably have their powerplay bowlers in the likes of (Jasprit) Bumrah," Vettori told ESPNcricinfo's T20 Time-Out.
"And I think Harshal Patel, Bumrah, Arshdeep are the guys they can look at at the back end because of their death prowess. And they're going to use their spinners through the middle. So, anyone who can come to the fore and offer a credible death-bowling option has to be an option. Because that's how Harshal Patel has forced his way into the team, his death bowling, and there's no reason why Arshdeep can't be like that as well.'
India have tried out several left-arm seamers over the past five-six years, - Barinder Sran, Jaydev Unadkat, Khaleel Ahmed and T Natarajan among them. Now, Arshdeep could have an opportunity to not just join this club but do what none of the others in the list have managed to - sustain their run of form to not just force their way into national contention but remain there for a lengthy period.
"If you break down that death bowling, it's his execution, it's the ability to chop and change exactly what he wants to do," Vettori said. "It's like he's got a calmness at that back end. That's the thing that stands out the most and then you step back and look at the powerplay bowling where he's swinging the ball, he's taking batsmen on, but it'll be the death bowling that people talk about more than anything."
Ian Bishop, who first saw Arshdeep live at the Under-19 World Cup in 2018, is impressed with his street smartness. Like Vettori, he was effusive in his praise for his death bowling skills.
"Clever kid," Bishop said. "A couple of things: I won't talk about the upfront bowling; I'll focus more on being one of the most economical death bowlers in the tournament this year and he's been edging that way for a while. He's not picking up a lot of wickets, I think just three wickets, but his yorker a lot of the time… which is something that is gold in this tournament.
"As we even saw in the game where Marco Jansen, not long ago, travelled - that's an example of guys not nailing their yorkers. He's got that. He knows when to bowl what, which is a critical component of a bowler.
What do I mean by that? When do you go yorker? When do you go slower ball? When do you bowl wide? When do you bowl straight? He's got great awareness. And one thing I think he said this week, he's trying to bowl quicker, he's trying to improve his arm speed, which will allow him to bowl quicker, which will perhaps make him a little bit more effective in different phases of the game, although we haven't seen that kind of wicket-taking ability so far this season."
Vettori believes Arshdeep's astute reading of the game and ability to keep his calm under pressure makes him a captain's delight. "I think what Bish touched upon there was his sequencing at the death" Vettori explained. "You think about a batsman like AB de Villiers, you say he always knew what the bowler was about to bowl so therefore he was on top and therefore he could get a read on what they were going to do. I think it's the reverse with Arshdeep Singh - he's on top of the batsmen, so he's got the read, he sets the tone, and therefore he controls the overs.
If you break down that death bowling, it's his execution, it's the ability to chop and change exactly what he wants to do
"You see a batsman not being quite as aggressive because they're not sure what's going to come. And if they do pick what's going to come, his execution takes over and he nails it every time. So, it's a rare quality because we are not talking about many other death bowlers. We saw the example of Marco Jansen last night… He [Arshdeep] gets his sequencing right, he's ahead of the batsmen and therefore producing these sorts of performances."
All said, Bishop hoped finding ways to pick wickets upfront would be the next stage in Arshdeep's development as a T20 bowler, and that he was far from a finished product.
"Of course, Arshdeep himself will tell you I'll be a greater asset to my team if I can come and get wickets in the powerplay but still bowl economically… so we're talking roles, depends on what his role in different teams is," Bishop explained.
"If he can get wickets in the middle, which is a phase you have to be very clever and almost be an enforcer type - and that's why I think he's trying to improve his pace. It will take time when you're learning a new skill for it to have an impact, but it's certainly why he's trying to improve his pace. So he's more effective across phases."
Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo