The IPL 2020 season brought about quite the bag of mixed results for the Kings XI Punjab (now rebranded as Punjab Kings). While the KL Rahul-led side could only register a solitary win from the first half of their campaign, a resurgence in the other half meant their fans were not in the wrong to harbour hopes of a final four spot.
Unfortunately for the Kings, the late push failed to book them a spot in the playoffs, but there were still a few silver linings among the dark clouds. One among them was the emergence of young left-arm seamer Arshdeep Singh, who pocketed big scalps like Rohit Sharma, Andre Russell and finished with 9 wickets from eight matches.
With big-money signing Sheldon Cottrell unable to make an impact, Arshdeep Singh was called upon for his first game of IPL 2020 against the Sunrisers Hyderabad. The seamer impressed with the wickets of Manish Pandey and Priyam Garg, earning himself a spot alongside Mohammed Shami on the Punjab bowling roster.
In the IPL 2021 player auction, the Punjab Kings splurged money to acquire the services of Australian pacers Jhye Richardson and Riley Meredith. But with only four foreign spots available, it is highly unlikely that the duo feature together in the playing XI.
If the previous edition of the IPL is anything to go by, Arshdeep Singh could well be called upon to deliver the goods again. In an exclusive chat with Sportskeeda, Arshdeep Singh elucidated on his role in the Punjab Kings setup, the new additions to the side, and more.
"Personally for me, the previous season was really good. This year the team combination is really good, we have some big names in our team. We've got some experience in Shami bhai, the two new quicks (Richardson and Meredith) have played in overseas conditions as well. I'm really excited to play with them, hope to have a good IPL."
Cottrell's inefficiency with the new ball and at the death meant that Punjab needed to look elsewhere for a solution. With Arshdeep Singh putting his hand up and delivering decent returns, the youngster was handed an opportunity to learn the ropes from Shami.
In what will be his third season with the Punjab franchise, Arshdeep Singh is excited to pick up a few new skills from the Indian cricket team pacer.
"With Shami bhai it’s really good because he has so much experience and with the skills he has, we have a lot to learn from him. I’m picking things from him that could help me win matches for the side this season."
"Learnt to enjoy the few months we have in the IPL" - Arshdeep Singh
Punjab Kings' multi-crore signing Richardson recently shed light on how Kumble eased the pressure playing on his mind as a result of the massive contract, and Arshdeep Singh too spoke about the tips he's received from the legendary spinner.
"Main thing I’ve picked up from him is the mindset, and how to stay positive in any situation I am in. How to enjoy your game and your company whether you are on or off the field. It’s a massive platform for us and we won’t feel pressure when we have such a good environment, if we have a good coach, captain and really supportive seniors. So the main thing I've learnt from him is that I should enjoy the few months we have in the IPL."
The Punjab Kings boast of some powerful hitters in their squad in the form of Chris Gayle, Nicholas Pooran, skipper KL Rahul among others. While coming up against such names, even if just in the nets, would send a shiver down the spine of world-class bowlers, Arshdeep Singh has a different approach jotted down in his playbook.
For the 22-year-old, bowling to such big names is a big 'confidence booster.'
"We feel really lucky that we have Gayle, Nicholas and KL bhai in our team since we get to bowl to the best and it makes things easier heading into the games. Bowling to them gives us the confidence that if we can bowl to these batters, we can do well against anyone else. It’s a huge confidence booster, and when we bowl to these legends, it increases our confidence a lot."
Arshdeep Singh picks Andre Russell's scalp as his favourite wicket from IPL 2020
With a cunning slower ball and a gifted ability to create tough angles for the best of batsmen, Arshdeep Singh managed to stifle some of the biggest names in the IPL last season.
However, it's only natural for a bowler to cherish one wicket more than the rest, and for the young Punjab seamer, it's the wicket of Andre Russell that's closest to his heart.
Facing off against the Kolkata Knight Riders in the 24th match of IPL 2020 at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi, Arshdeep Singh was thrown the ball to contain the pair of Russell and Dinesh Karthik in the 19th over.
Arshdeep Singh had done a fabulous job with the ball until then, having given away just 16 runs from three overs, including a maiden. The first ball of the penultimate over went off the edge and past the keeper for four.
The very next ball, the youngster got the better of the dangerman. Keeping away from Russell's bat swing with a full and wide delivery, Arshdeep Singh got Russell to edge the ball to the keeper, triggering wild celebrations on the field and in the Punjab camp.
"Russell’s wicket is my favourite because it was at the back end of the innings and at a time when they were looking to go hard at us. We executed our plans well and managed to get him out. Russell likes the ball in his arc, the plan was to keep it wide and away from him, the boundary was bigger on the off side and we wanted to use that boundary. The plan came off well."
The IPL 2021 brings with it a whole set of new opportunities for Arshdeep Singh, who will be keen to put all his learnings over the past few seasons into full use.
Armed with a credible set of variations and being the only left-arm medium pacer in the Punjab Kings setup this year, one would be ill-advised to write off the youngster as a trump card amidst KL Rahul's deck of bowling resources.