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Anil Kumble backs Arshdeep Singh to emulate Zaheer and ‘do great things’ for India

Anil Kumble is so impressed with Arshdeep Singh that he expects the left arm to soon follow in Zaheer Khan’s footsteps and “do wonderful things for India”.
After excelling in the IPL for Punjab Kings, while Kumble was the coach there, Arshdeep transitioned seamlessly to India’s T20I side, and in their T20 World Cup opener against Pakistan at the MCG on Sunday, took 3 for 32. That included Babar Azam’s wicket with his first pitch. Arshdeep’s spell helped India keep Pakistan at 159 for 8, driving them away from the final ball.

“I was really impressed with Arshdeep, how he came through,” Kumble told ESPNcricinfo’s Open Mic program. “I worked with him for three years and I could see the kind of development he’s had in the T20 format, and last year’s IPL was a classic example of how he handled the pressure.

“He may have bowled the tough overs for the team and yes, you don’t always look at the wickets column in the T20 game, you look at the moments the bowler comes up with. And the temperament he has shown, it’s great, we saw that again in the India-Pakistan game, when you have 90,000 people at the MCG, it’s always a challenge.

“So yes, Arshdeep has definitely matured and I would love to see him continue. Probably some Zak [Zaheer Khan] did for India, I expect Arshdeep to do some wonderful things for India.”

Jitesh Sharma, another Punjab Kings player, will have the game to play as India’s finisher in T20Is once Dinesh Karthik finishes, according to Kumble, who also worked with Jitesh when they were part of the Mumbai Indians lineup. In IPL 2022, Jitesh struck at 163.63 and, more recently in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy for Vidarbha, he has increased that strike rate to 188.60.

“Jitesh is someone I value very, very highly,” Kumble said. “He’s a great cricketer. He’s very mature. He’s done all the hard yards in domestic cricket. He can hit the ball not only from the spinners, but also from the fast bowlers. He’s someone who goes with the back foot and he is someone I think can fill the role of that finisher for India if not now he should be looked at after this World Cup when the voters sit down to watch the next batch of cricketers, I’m sure Jitesh’s name will appear already be there.

“He plays the part of a finisher. My take on T20 cricket is about specific roles they play for their teams. And Jitesh, I know he started as an opener, but he is currently in the role of a finisher. He beats number 5 to # 6. And that’s the kind of thing you have to do, if you look at stats, you see the top two hitters who are generally the openers or number 3. They end up getting all the numbers in T20 cricket, but Jitesh has done exceptionally well in his role.”

When asked which team had the best bowling attack in the on-going men’s T20 World Cup, Kumble chose Pakistan, with Shaheen Shah Afridi, Haris Rauf and Naseem Shah on the front lines.

“Pakistan definitely has the best bowling attack,” Kumble said. “They missed the all-rounder that Australia has. Australia generally has a good attack in terms of options. India certainly has good spinners. If you ask me, I think Pakistan has the best fast bowling attack.”

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