It is not often that a side, any side at any level, being sent rocking so decisively by Indian fast bowlers. South Africa, playing the first of their three T20 Internationals at Thiruvananthapuram on Wednesday were out of the game before India had bowled three overs.
Deepak Chahar, into the side after Bhuvneshwar Kumar was packed off the National Cricket Academy after the Australia series, made the most of the occasion.
But the bowler who really set the cat among the pigeons was Arshdeep Singh. The left-armer was gifted by an early wicket by Quinton de Kock but a minor adjustment of the radar and the seamer was nearly unplayable in the first three overs he bowled.
Finishing his first spell at 3/15, Arshdeep had once more put his hand up as a suitable member for the Indian seam-up attack, not just in the current series but also in the upcoming T20 World Cup and long beyond that.
The youngster is still in his learning days but already he has made his mark and as days go, it looks like he is learning fast and could well be indispensable in the side in next to no time.
All the permutation and combination has been with the World Cup in mind, Arshdeep is already in the 15 for the tournament, so there is no anxiety for youngster about his place.
That is something that has been plaguing many of the other fast bowlers. We just saw how the cricket board said that Mohammad Shami was still not fit enough for the South Africa series but the seamer put up his negative Covid test soon after.
Similarly, even Chahar is not really in the fray, in the sense that Bhuvneshwar is the first choice for the right-arm swing bowler in the side.
The only other bowler of this lot who has been in the side is Harshal Patel, which is a little surprising. It is not like he has set the cricket pitch on fire with his display against Australia but somehow, he seems to be in the fray all the while and is also in the World Cup squad.
Man for man, under the current circumstances, Arshdeep for sure looks better than Patel. For one, the left-armer bring variety and more importantly, he has shown tremendous poise and quite a bit of control in the death overs.
As was seen during the World Cup, Arshdeep, young in years, was under tremendous pressure to defend seven runs in the last over in two consecutive matches. While he didn’t manage to do so, neither over was a cakewalk for the batters. He showed enough gumption and calmness to offer them some posers, even in these restricted circumstances.
Thereafter, the bowler was sent to the National Cricket Academy (NCA) presumably to iron out some glitches and come back into the fray with better ideas.
If that is what it was all about, Arshdeep surely has learned his lessons, and fast.
The first wicket in Thiruvananthapuram was a little bit of a gift with De Kock dragging one onto his stumps from a long way off but the other two were pure jewels for a swing bowler.
An outswinger, as perfect as it can get, saw Rilee Rossouw fish at one to be comfortable held behind the stumps and then the next delivery, curved wickedly back into left-hander David Miller, making a mockery of his defence and a mess of his stumps.
Arshdeep was on a hat-trick. While that didn’t really happen, the young man had done enough damage, with Chahar chipping in at the other end, to ensure that it was smooth sailing for India when they batted, even though they lost Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli cheaply,
To be fair, Patel did a decent job and eventually, with Arshdeep being a little expensive in his last over, ended up with better figures than the latter at the end of the match.
But Patel’s role is a little mystifying. He is not a new-ball exponent, a job that was given to Bhuvneshwar when Jasprit Bumrah was out of action. Also, Arshdeep has done both jobs – opening the bowling and also sending down the death overs. Both jobs, as we saw on Wednesday, he is doing with quite a bit of skill.
The young left-armer is definitely one to invest in, as India now seek to see new faces take from the older lot in all formats.
Things will also change after the World Cup, as they have done in the past after every big event, so Arshdeep Singh could be in the frontline of all things earlier than we all had imagined.