IPL 2023: How Prabhsimran, the "Punjab da puttar", stole the show
The 22-year-old signalled his arrival with a matured 103 off 65 balls to vindicate the franchise’s faith and set up a 31-run win over Delhi Capitals
Back in 2019, Punjab Kings (then Kings XI Punjab) splashed Rs 4.8 crores ($ US 580,000 approximately) for a young Prabhsimran Singh, a promising wicketkeeper-batter. The return on investment was not much to write home about as he largely warmed the benches for the last four seasons, playing in only six matches with just a 50 to show.
It all changed on Saturday at the Arun Jaitley Stadium in New Delhi where on a slow surface, the 22-year-old signalled his arrival with a matured 103 off 65 balls to vindicate the franchise's faith and set up a 31-run win over Delhi Capitals. The two points helped the red shirts to stay afloat with a chance, while it confirmed Capitals’ ouster from the reckoning.
Prabhsimran’s century is the fourth one in IPL 2023, and only the second one from an uncapped player after Yashasvi Jaiswal, who is being tipped to break into India’s white ball set-up sooner than later. The Patiala-born 22-year-old’s moment of reckoning in the demanding world of IPL did not come easy though, with frustration often creeping in for not getting enough match-time.
In a set-up where he was very much the back-up opener-keeper, it was nearly an impossible task for Prabhsimran to force into the playing XI with the prolific duo of KL Rahul-Mayank Agarwal ruling the roost till 2021. The window of opportunity came when Jonny Bairstow was unavailable with the aftereffects of an injury and the youngster—who once caught the fancy of Sachin Tendulkar—eventually made it count in a make-or-break match for his franchise.
Speaking after the game, Player of the Match Prabhsimran said: "I have been with the team for a long time and when you get back-to-back opportunities, you gotta grab it. The wicket was slightly tough at the start and the plan was to build some partnership and then target a few bowlers. I also speak to senior players who keep telling me to make sure that I take the game deep and make it big when I get a start. Really thankful to the management for the opportunities."
The fascinating part about his innings was that unlike most of the big knocks in this IPL which were played in top gear, it reflected a fine cricket sense in pacing of the knock. Soon after losing three wickets for 46 runs, Prabhsimran took it upon himself to tackle such quality spinners like Axar Patel, Kuldeep Yadav to score 27 from the first 30 balls. He then upped the tempo as his next 76 runs came from 35 balls to take Punjab Kings to a competitive 167 for seven—a par score on that wicket.
Despite his blow-hot-blow-cold performances in one of the biggest stages of the game, the Punjab da puttar was grateful for the way his skipper Shikhar Dhawan backed him ahead of the season. In an interview with Indian Express ahead of the match, Prabhsimran revealed how Dhawan assured him that he would get more matches this season and he needed to play his natural game.
There were, however, strong words of caution from his captain as well as Yuvraj Singh, a big brother of sorts for young Punjab cricketers when he fell cheaply in a number of games after a good start to the season. "Shikhar paji warned me and said, Talent akela kaafi nahi nota Prabh (talent is not enough in cricket). You should show more consistency," he said.
What was Yuvraj’s advice? "I was throwing away my starts. Yuvi paji told me that I need to do a little mental adjustment. If I faced three or four dots, I used to try and go for a glory shot. In those situations, he told me instead of going for big hits, just rotate the strike," the batter revealed.
If his century on Saturday was any indication, Prabhsimran had been paying attention to them!