December 18, 2019 might not hold much significance to most cricket watchers, but that won’t be the case for Prabhsimran Singh. This was the day he secured his first IPL contract, and entered the grandest stage of them all with great expectations. However, the teenager learnt it the hard way that things happen differently in the IPL.
Born to a former Indian handball player, his father always wanted him to follow his footsteps. But, as the cliche goes, destiny had something else in store for him.
When an IPL team first bought him, he had not played any domestic cricket at the senior level. Till then, his only claim to fame was a 301-ball-298 in an Under-23 inter-district game against Amritsar.
At Punjab Kings, Prabhsimran was given the odd opportunity here and there, and most of them were out of position. Only after four long seasons did he get the chance to open from the get-go. Much of it had to do with his spectacular run in the domestic T20s last year - he averaged in excess of 60 while striking at 170 in 11 innings.
There were no questions about his talent. Proof of it could be seen in how Punjab chose to include him in their setup for the fifth straight season, despite him not having done anything of note.
By his own admission, nothing much had changed in terms of how he played. It had more to do with the form he came in with, and how secure he felt in this setup. In fact, his domestic numbers show that he was always a level above the rest. It was all about converting this into performances at the highest level.
In the game against RR, Rajasthan won the toss and asked Punjab to bat first in what was a batter-friendly surface in Guwahati. Prabhsimran had shown glimpses of his improved game against pace in his previous innings, before getting out to a nothing delivery down the leg.
Taking the strike yet again, he continued with intent by going after the experienced Trent Boult in the first over. True, Boult might not have had a lot of swing to work with, but his timing was a treat to the eyes. He went about his business in the powerplay with clinical precision. He scored nine boundaries when the field restrictions were on, helping his partner, Shikhar Dhawan, to get into his groove in the process.
He looked a lot more assured in his stroke-making, and there were no half-measures in any of his shots. In the mid-game interview, he also spoke about how Dhawan, the PBKS skipper, had told him during the pre-season camp that he would be starting in the XI this season and would be fully backed.
He got PBKS off to a flier and the scorecard read 90 in 9.4 overs when he was dismissed. The fiery start set the tone for the rest of the innings, as PBKS managed to set a competitive target of 198 for the Rajasthan batters.
Coming into the season, PBKS got rid of Mayank Agarwal before the auction and their English duo, Jonny Bairstow and Liam Livingstone, ended up being unavailable due to injury concerns. A lot of skeptics felt that PBKS would struggle to get runs. Two games into the tournament, and Prabhsimran already looks like he belongs here. While he might have been in the IPL for over four years, we must remember that he's only 22 and his best is yet to come. That is an exciting prospect.
I guess that's the way the cookie crumbles. Had they not let go of their skipper, or had any of their overseas mainstays been available, he would probably not have gotten this opportunity. Him coming good at the top solves many of these problems. And if he manages to continue this run of form, PBKS will become serious contenders for the playoffs spot.