The Punjab Kings' 25-year-old bowling allrounder Harpreet Brar was hardly a known name and didn't get an IPL game this season until Friday night. And when he got a chance, in only his fourth IPL game he dismissed Virat Kohli and Glenn Maxwell off consecutive deliveries before also snaring AB de Villiers to end with a match-winning 3 for 19. Here's a factfile on the Kings' latest hero.
Who is Harpreet Brar?
A left-arm spinner and a hard-hitting lower-order batter, Brar hails from Moga, a small city in Punjab, which is also the hometown of Harmanpreet Kaur. Brar played age-group cricket and several club competitions in Punjab before he was picked by Kings XI Punjab in the 2019 IPL auction for his base price of INR 20 lakh at the age of 23.
What was Brar's childhood like?
When he was a kid, Brar saw a flyer for a cricket academy stuck on a wall in a nearby market. Excited with the ambition of becoming a professional cricketer, Brar took the flyer home and showed it to his mother to which she said, "'See, you can join if you wish, but only if you put your heart into it," as reported by the Kings website in 2019.
She said so because Brar came from a family that played cricket but most of his cousins gave up the sport due to "financial difficulties". With a lot of pressure on him to make it big once he grew older and started representing Punjab in Under-16 and Under-19 competitions, there was even a time when Brar protested going to marriages because his relatives would tell his mother, "Cricket? The whole world plays cricket, nothing will come of it".
But Brar wanted to prove them wrong. If not cricket, he was destined to either join the Punjab Police, where his father worked as a driver, or move to Canada on a study visa for higher studies. But he decided to give cricket one final shot.
How did he make it big?
When he was playing at the Under-23 level in 2018, Brar knew time was running out for him. He had already appeared in two trials for the Mumbai Indians but couldn't make the cut.
It was then that Punjab's Gurkeerat Singh made Brar represent a Mohali district team where Brar shone with his performances, even though he didn't have enough money to buy new bats at times. Gurkeerat helped him with that as well.
"The bats were expensive, so we had to make them last longer by threading it," Brar told the Kings website in 2019. "Or hope that a senior hands one down. One time Gurkeerat paaji gifted me one."
The tournament that stamped him as a bowler for the next level was the 2018 Under-23 CK Nayudu Trophy in which he ended with a whopping 56 wickets from 11 games at an average of 16.41, that included six five-wicket hauls and best figures of 7 for 23.
Not surprisingly, he was handed an IPL contract by the Punjab franchise in November 2018 for the 2019 season.
The Punjab Kings left-arm spinner's match-winning returns•ESPNcricinfo Ltd
What has his journey been like so far since 2019?
Brar made is T20 debut in the 2019 IPL against the Delhi Capitals, when his captain R Ashwin described him as a "mystery spinner" at the toss. Brar impressed with an unbeaten 20 off 12, that included a six off a Kagiso Rabada bouncer, but he was given the tough task of bowling in the powerplay. Brar's spin was struck for a six first ball by Shikhar Dhawan in a 17-run over, and he went on to play just one more game for a wicketless five overs that season.
Brar played the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy later that year and ended as Punjab's highest wicket-taker with a tally of 14 and an economy rate of 6.89, in a bowling line-up that also featured Sandeep Sharma, Siddarth Kaul and Mayank Markande. Brar's victims that season featured a star cast of Devdutt Padikkal, Dinesh Karthik, and Prithvi Shaw, among others.
Around 10 months later, he flew to the UAE for the 2020 IPL but got just one game and this time he was taken to the cleaners by Shane Watson and Faf du Plessis for 41 runs off his four overs in a 10-wicket loss.
In the Mushtaq Ali Trophy at the beginning of 2021, Brar rose again. This time his seven wickets at an economy rate of just 5.70 from seven games played a pivotal role in Punjab's run to the semi-final after remaining unbeaten in the league stage. By now Brar was one of the main Punjab bowlers along with Sharma, Kaul, Markande and Arshdeep Singh.
The magical IPL night
After losing four of their first six IPL games this season, the Kings made three changes against the Royal Challengers, and gave Brar his fourth IPL game.
Brar first batted with his captain KL Rahul to finish on an unbeaten 25 from 17 at No. 7 that included 18 runs off five balls against Harshal Patel, this IPL's highest wicket-taker, with the help of two sixes and a four, that took the Kings to a challenging 179 for 5.
But the real magic from Brar came with the ball. Even though his first ball was struck for a six again, by Kohli, Brar broke the back of the Royal Challengers' chase with his first two IPL wickets off consecutive balls that had the names of Kohli and Maxwell on them; one losing his leg stump and the other his off.
And in his next and last over, he even had de Villiers caught at extra cover for a fairytale ending that left the chase at 69 for 4 from where the Royal Challengers never recovered.
His first 11 overs in the IPL starting from 2019 went for a wicketless 106 runs, and his next seven balls didn't concede a single run while removing not one but three big fish.
"My first IPL wicket is Virat paaji's wicket so I was very happy when I got that," Brar said after receiving his Player-of-the-Match award at the presentation. "Once you get one wicket, the mentality changes a bit, you get confidence that you're landing the ball nicely, so I got the flow and more wickets.
"Bilkul khwaab jaisa lag raha hai (It feels like a dream)."