regular-article-logo Wednesday, 17 April 2024

Left-arm quicks, an endangered species

India have only Arshdeep Singh to show, others swing away into oblivion for inconsistency

Indranil Majumdar Calcutta Published 25.04.23, 05:45 AM
Arshdeep Singh.

Arshdeep Singh. PTI/posts on Twitter

Defending 16 off the final over against the likes of Tim David and Tilak Varma is a task which will make many nervous, but Arshdeep Singh is special.

Branded the “next big thing” since making his India debut in July last year, he has already made himself indispensible in the shortest format. Be it for his franchise Punjab Kings or India, he is the go-to man in the Powerplay and death overs and hardly disappoints.


David had just smashed his low full toss for a six in the previous over and Mumbai Indians were riding a wave of optimism. Just one came off the first two balls and the next delivery was a searing yorker that broke the middle stump into two. Impact player Nehal Wadhera’s stumps were shattered off the next ball and the left-arm pacer ended up giving only two runs in the decisive over.

Khaleel Ahmed.

Khaleel Ahmed. PTI/posts on Twitter

Arshdeep has made it a habit of defending small scores in the closing stages. In last year’s edition, he bowled a tight 19th over to Mahendra Singh Dhoni and helped Punjab Kings defend 187.

Not just the IPL, he has shown the mental toughness to survive at the biggest stage too. In the last World Cup, in Australia, he set the tone by removing Babar Azam and Mohammed Rizwan in the first two overs to cripple Pakistan.

T. Natarajan.

T. Natarajan. PTI/posts on Twitter

A left-arm seamer is considered a necessity in the limited-overs format. Their economy and strike-rate, along with the natural variations, always give them a headstart.

Bouncer, yorker and the slower delivery are the most potential weapons at the death. It’s very difficult to get away against a left-arm pacer since hitting against the angle could prove to be suicidal. The reverse swing generated could also make life difficult for the batters even on flat wickets.

Left-arm fast bowlers are a rare breed and no wonder that alongside Arshdeep, the likes of Trent Boult and Sam Curran are top draws in the death overs in the IPL.

India have had very few left-arm pacers since the days of Irfan Pathan, Ashish Nehra and Zaheer Khan. Only two pacers made their debut in the longer format since the retirement of Zaheer in 2014 — Jaydev Unadkat and T. Natarajan.

The scenario is slightly better in the ODIs and T20Is. The two have been joined by Arshdeep, Barinder Sran, Khaleel Ahmed, Chetan Sakaria and Sreenath Aravind.

Arshdeep has been the most promising in recent memory because of his ability to learn quickly. Bowling the last few overs has been the toughest job in T20 cricket and Arshdeep is a calm operator having learnt the tricks of the trade when Anil Kumble was head coach of Punjab Kings for three seasons.

Former India pacer T.A. Sekar, who has worked closely with Dennis Lillee at the MRF Pace Foundation for more than a decade, says only the talented can survive. “Irfan and Zaheer were skilful bowlers and so they sustained for long durations. You need to be able to bowl consistently and develop the stock ball to survive in international cricket,” Sekar told The Telegraph.

“Arshdeep has the potential and he hasn’t been tested enough at the international level. He needs to work on his followthrough and non-bowling arm to generate more pace and bounce.

“Left-arm seamers at any level should be able to bring the ball back into the righthander. Both Zaheer and Irfan were very good at it. This is because 70 per cent of the batters are right-handers. The incoming ball from a left-arm pacer is always difficult for the right-handers.

“They have to open up their stance, otherwise the point the ball is delivered from creates a blind spot for the batter. At his peak, Zaheer excelled at this incoming delivery or his stock ball,” explained Sekar.

“Yes, they are a rarity, but lots are coming up nowadays in domestic cricket. You need to to move the ball both ways to survive. Arshdeep has shown that quality and Khaleel has improved but he has to work on his technique. Khaleel’s arm rotation is not accurate and so he is erratic.”

Be it Arshdeep or Natarajan or Khaleel, consistency is a must.

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