Nobody wants to be a one-trick pony, less so in the world of cricket. In his mind, every tail-ender is a lower-order batsman, every part-timer (or pie-chucker) the fifth bowler. Heck, Paul Collingwood used to introduce himself as a fast-bowling all-rounder in the vignettes.
All-rounder is a tag which commands respect, especially in T20 , a format made for human swiss knives.
It’s the very tag that seems to be weighing heavily on Delhi Daredevils’ Pawan Negi this season. Six wicket-less overs in as many matches don’t make him a frontline spinner. And 51 runs at a strike rate of 108 don’t build his case as a batsman either.
The scenario is a far cry from the hullabaloo that surrounded the 23-year-old three months ago. Decent outings in the Vijay Hazare and Syed Mushtaq Ali tournaments earned him a call-up for the T20s against Sri Lanka, the Asia Cup and eventually India’s World T20 squad. A debut performance of 1/16 against UAE in the Asia Cup was enough for franchise owners to wage a bidding war which culminated in the spinner going for a whopping R8.5cr in the IPL auctions.
To be fair, the circus in the auction room is not in Negi’s hands. The one on the field, however, is.
Opportunities this season have certainly been limited, but the youngster hasn’t seized them. The latest proponent of the Ravi Jadeja school of left-arm spin has been ineffective, much like the founder himself. Negi’s six overs have gone for nearly 11 runs apiece, with the bowler either pitching it too full or dragging it short. He has also looked unsure with the bat in hand.
Though he made his IPL debut for Delhi in 2012, Negi’s finer performances came after he switched to Chennai Super Kings, the magnum opus being a fifer against Kolkata Knight Riders in the 2014 Champions League T20 final.
The mojo however began dwindling in the following IPL season. While he chipped in with useful cameos, Negi’s ten matches returned only six wickets, a performance glossed over thanks to captain MS Dhoni’s endorsement and fellow spinners Jadeja and R Ashwin’s support.
Now back in red and blue, Negi is struggling to find his feet, with Amit Mishra, Imran Tahir and Shahbaz Nadeem around. The hefty price tag seems to assure him a look in the team, but it’s also getting tougher to shoulder with every disappointment. The youngster can take heart from the Rahul Dravid-Paddy Upton regime, one known to utilise potential.
But the chances may soon start to run out for the million-dollar baby.