19 wickets, 200 dot balls - the most by any bowler, 3 maidens - the joint-most in IPL 2022. It was a season to remember for Prasidh Krishna, who donned the Royals pink for the first time, and sizzled in it. It was also his most successful season since his IPL debut back in 2018. Don’t let his mild-mannered appearance and innocent smile fool you, for behind it is a skillful fast bowler who is ‘not a nice guy’ when he steps onto the field, in his own words. Speed isn’t his only weapon, ‘Skiddy’ relies on exploiting the hard lengths ever so often - a skillset that makes him a valuable bowler at any stage of the game.
Earlier this year, the mega auction in Bengaluru saw three IPL franchises, Lucknow Super Giants, Gujarat Titans and Rajasthan Royals engage in an intense bidding battle for this 26-year-old from Karnataka. It was hardly a surprise. Prasidh’s powerplay wickets, high release point, express pace and the length variations he brings to the table would’ve made him an asset for any team. The Royals were determined to get him and despite some serious competition from LSG and GT, they eventually secured his services. Together with the left-arm pace of Trent Boult, Prasidh formed a lethal new-ball pair at the Royals and contributed to a largely successful season for the franchise. The Royals won every single match in which Prasidh picked two or more wickets this season.
Prasidh’s first wicket in pink came against Sunrisers Hyderabad in our first game of the season. Trent Boult’s nagging first over to Kane Williamson built the pressure going into the second, and his partner took full advantage of it, striking in his very first over. A back-of-a-length delivery around the off-stump tempted Williamson to poke at it, but he got squared up instead, and ended up edging it behind. In his next over, Prasidh came back to dismiss Rahul Tripathi for a duck, and finished with impressive match figures of 2/16. On a surface that offered a fair bit of pace and bounce, Prasidh’s ‘hit the deck hard’ mantra had worked. It was just the kind of start that skipper Sanju would’ve hoped for as he watched his brand-new pace duo light up their campaign opener. It was also the beginning that set the tone for Prasidh at the Royals.
“Hitting those hard lengths was helping me. We were speaking outside when Jos got out. He said it was tough to hit off good lengths,” the youngster had said after the match.
His next scalp came against Mumbai Indians in our second game, where he dismissed their captain Rohit Sharma. Once again, he had struck gold in his first over of the innings, with a big wicket that would change the momentum of the game. It looked like Prasidh had started developing a knack for the big fishes, and the Royals surely didn’t mind it. All of us were enjoying this Boult-Prasidh show that had given our pace attack a new lease of life, particularly in the first six overs, where we were one of the best-performing sides throughout the season.
Prasidh had his share of quiet outings too. The next four matches saw him pick just a couple of wickets, but the pacer shrugged off the lean patch soon and came up trumps against Delhi Capitals with a match-winning spell. Faced with a steep target of 222, DC were on the attack from the get-go with their explosive opening pair of David Warner and Prithvi Shaw. It was Prasidh who got the first breakthrough, going round the wicket in the middle of the over and getting rid of Warner.
Then came the penultimate over, which truly displayed the pacer’s steely nerves in a high-pressure situation. With 36 runs needed in 12 balls, DC had an in-form Lalit Yadav (27 off 21) and the pinch-hitting Rovman Powell at the crease. Once again, Prasidh went round the wicket, bowled six consecutive dots that included the crucial wicket of Yadav and put the pressure back on DC. It was his wicket-maiden that gave Obed McCoy 36 runs to defend in the final over, and ultimately laid the foundation for the team’s victory. Clearly for Prasidh, a training session isn’t just about boosting his confidence ahead of a match. It’s about sharpening his existing skills and having the grasping power to learn new ones.
“I’ve played cricket for 13 years and I’ve never done it (bowling round the wicket) in my life. It made me confident because I was able to do it in the nets. There’s no right time to acquire a skill. You need to be good enough to be able to do it at any point,” he had said in an episode of The Royals Podcast halfway through the season.
Perhaps, Prasidh’s most memorable story of the season would be his comeback spell against Royal Challengers Bangalore in Qualifier 2. Just a couple of nights before the match-up, he was at the receiving end of three consecutive sixes from David Miller in Qualifier 1, which helped Gujarat Titans seal their spot in the final and left the Royals with one last chance. And while the youngster may have replayed that last over in his head multiple times, the after-effects of it hardly showed in his performance against RCB - where he finished with impressive figures of 3/22, including the key wickets of Virat Kohli and Dinesh Karthik. On their day, both these batters are capable of turning the tide. But the day didn’t belong to them. It belonged to Prasidh and his moment of redemption. That double-wicket over pegged RCB on the back foot, and their innings was wrapped up under 160. The Royals chased it down comfortably in 18.1 overs, booking a well-deserved berth in the final.
It all came together for Prasidh, and it came together just at the right time. For any bowler, being hit for a boundary in itself is a tough pill to swallow, let alone a hat-trick of them that snatches away a deserving win from their team. To be able to put that disappointment behind him, and bounce back with a game-changing performance in such a short span reflects on the character that Prasidh is, and his never-ending quest to improvise.
“Special credit to Prasidh. The way he was honest with me was really impressive. He is a very special talent,” said a happy Kumar Sangakkara, after the Royals’ win against RCB.
Prasidh’s ability of being honest in his self-evaluation, the flexibility he offers to his captain of being a serious new-ball threat as well an effective death bowler, the earnestness with which he runs in every ball, and the deadly combination of pace and bounce in his repertoire makes him an exciting prospect. Add to that, his dedication to continuously working on enhancing his skills and acquiring new ones, even in the middle of the season, is a trait that has found a lifelong fan in Ravichandran Ashwin.
“I think he’s extremely creative as a fast bowler and someone who can make changes on the go, which is pretty rare. It’s a quality that I admire,” Ashwin had said in the same podcast.
And this is true for Prasidh, not just in the IPL where he’s showing rapid growth, but also on the international stage where his journey has just begun. In seven ODIs so far, he has already taken 18 wickets at a promising economy of 4.84. In 2021, his debut international outing saw him pick a four-wicket haul against England and set up a huge come-from-behind win for India.
His first three overs in the India colours weren’t the easiest though, especially against a quality side that featured some hard-hitting batters. England were cruising in run-chase of 318, until the debutant got over his expensive first spell and came back to remove a rampaging Jason Roy, who was nearing his half-century. He followed it up with another big wicket in his next over, that of Ben Stokes with a 140 kmph+ off-cutter. In the next 17 balls, England could only score two runs, had lost two important wickets and their best batter on the day, Jonny Bairstow, was off-strike. From thereon, regular wickets kept the Englishmen in check and Prasidh bagged a couple of more to finish with 4/54 - the best figures by an Indian debutant in ODIs. A year later, his length-ball variations were troubling the West Indies too, as he finished with nine wickets in three ODIs and deservingly walked away with the Player of the Series award.
With a three-match ODI series against England coming up, the time is right for Prasidh to spread his wings and fly higher, away from home.