Junior cricket works on reputation and word of mouth. Did you see that young guy bowl quickly with a clean action? How good was that guy who was hitting it so cleanly everywhere? You get the gist.
In that regard, Arshin Kulkarni’s fame preceded his arrival at the Under-19 World Cup in South Africa. After all, not many teenagers can claim to have made their List A debut before the World Cup. Moreover, not all youngsters are like Kulkarni, whose big hitting and pace bowling abilities are highly discussed in the domestic circuit.
A Player of the Match in the finals of the Vinoo Mankad Trophy for Maharashtra, a ton in the U-19 Quadrangular Finals, and the leading run-scorer for India in the U-19 Asia Cup, to go along with two centuries in the Maharashtra Premier League, where he also hit more sixes than Ruturaj Gaikwad and Rahul Tripathi.
Hence, when Kulkarni couldn’t do much with the bat in the first two games against Ireland and Bangladesh, it was quite a surprise. But against the USA, and right before the Super Six, where India are scheduled to play New Zealand and Nepal, Arshin Kulkarni showed what he’s made up of.
Mind you, it wasn’t a fluent innings where he could hit the ball everywhere at will. It was an innings that required him to work hard for his runs on the ground with huge boundaries and not-so-fast outfield. The pitch was also holding up a bit now and then when the bowlers bent their back.
Kulkarni, who’s a free-flowing batter, played 57 dot balls in the total 118 deliveries that he faced. But he danced down the track and hit the pacers and spinners alike whenever they gave him room and erred on his pads. In those shots, we all saw a glimpse of a proper power hitter who loves going to the pitch of the ball and hitting it cleanly with a lot of bottomhand involved.
Hence, his strike rate against deliveries hitting the wickets was 150, where he allowed his bottom hand to dominate against the spinners (especially against the USA skipper Rishi Ramesh), showing that he’s an elite hitter of the cricket ball. If any doubts were left, he swept pacer Arya Garg over deep square leg for a humongous six to settle them.
This wasn’t just a batter who was at ease. This was a batter who, if moulded in the right fashion, could single-handedly thrash bowling lineups into oblivion.
Kulkarni scored 108 off 118 balls, allowing India to post a total of 326/5. His partnership with Musheer Khan, which was worth 155 runs, held the innings together. In the middle, even when the runs came at only 4-5 runs/over, the young batters maintained their calm and didn’t play rash shots. Later, Kulkarni took it upon himself to accelerate and bashed the spinners and pacers alike to his century.
India’s total eventually proved too much for the United States, which could score only 125/8 in their 50 overs chasing. Left-arm pacer Naman Tiwari continued his lovely form to pick up four USA wickets.
With this win, India have now made it to the Super Sixes undefeated. Arshin Kulkarni was the one key batter in the top order who hadn’t got the runs. Now, even that loophole has been cemented over. Moreover, Kulkarni’s more than useful medium pace hasn’t had got a chance to express itself fully in the tournament. The Super Sixes and the games coming after them will be interesting for that reason alone.
After all, not every day does a tall, pace bowling all-rounder perform in an Indian jersey, bats at the top, bowls medium pace, and looks every bit like the future superstar. Add to that the fact that the spot of the pace bowling all-rounder on the national men’s side has always been a sore spot due to the lack of quality candidates.
The arrival of Arshin Kulkarni is a big serendipitous step towards solving that problem. Kulkarni is now part of the Lucknow Supergiants setup as well, and his career seems to be on a roller coaster that is only going up at the moment.
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