From Asia Cup villain to World Cup hero – the Arshdeep Singh story

Arshdeep Singh with his father
Arshdeep Singh with his father (PC: X)

Much has been said about how Jasprit Bumrah, Kuldeep Yadav, Axar Patel and Hardik Pandya bowled in the final. Let me add the 19th over bowled by Arshdeep Singh to this list. Three dot balls to start the over against Keshav Maharaj – that was the penultimate nail in the South African coffin, with Suryakumar Yadav and Pandya closing the lid in the 20th over. Arshdeep, may I say, was effective right through the competition. Even when he went for a few runs, he came back strong. He picked up wickets with regularity and made a big difference to the Indian campaign. His story, one of resilience and determination, is exactly what sport is all about.

Also, it isn’t the first time Arshdeep Singh has done well for India. In the opening match against Pakistan at the 2022 T20 World Cup in Australia, it was Arshdeep who drew first blood for India. A rare talent, he could well be a future star. More so because he has seen failure, been hardened by the criticism and abuse he has faced, and come out triumphant in the face of all that adversity.

For a young man, playing Pakistan is never easy. There is always pressure, and for Arshdeep, it was no different. In the 2022 Asia Cup, when the Asif Ali catch went up, India had control of the game, and that wicket could well have closed out the game. It was a sitter, no doubt, and Arshdeep may have approached it slightly casually. Or so it seemed at the ground. But at no point did he even remotely think that he would drop it. But that’s the nature of sport. There are no retakes and no second chances. It’s cruel at times. India went on to lose the game, and Arshdeep was subjected to a social-media trial filled with hatred and bigotry, which kept going for months.

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Arshdeep Singh dancing with Virat Kohli and with the trophy and medal
Arshdeep Singh dancing with Virat Kohli and with the trophy and medal (PC: ICC)

For a good few weeks, he was defamed, called names and his family dragged into it. It was all over a cricket match, where there will always be a winner and a loser. It has nothing to do with one’s family, wife or daughter. And yet, they are targeted. That’s why it felt so good when Arshdeep’s father was at the ground in Barbados, giving his son a warm hug after the victory. Life had come full circle for the family and every question had been answered. The hug was one of pride, of joy and satisfaction. Relief too, at one level, for every critic had been silenced.

As we try and analyse Arshdeep’s success story today, one wonders what must he be going through at the moment. Does he recognise that it was the bad times that set him up for the good? That the insults heaped on him made him all the more determined? What were his thought at the end of the final? How did he overcome mental-health concerns, if any, to script this success story?

As India savours the World Cup win and moves past the 11-year-long curse, it is time to celebrate and understand the story of Arshdeep, to offer more support to the young man and push him to go further. India needs a left-arm pace bowler in red-ball cricket, and Arshdeep, most will agree, has the ability. There could be no better outcome than him stepping up in Test cricket as well going forward.

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