The IPL has always been a tournament that is lit by some standout performances and its 2018 edition is no exception. The eleventh edition has so far given us many extraordinary performances in all three departments of the game i.e. batting, bowling and fielding. But while it is one thing to produce a glimpse of brilliance, the real performer is the one who has the ability to sustain that brilliance over a longer period of time. It has often been the case when a player pulls off one or two match-winning performances and disappears into oblivion for the rest of the season. So, it takes a considerable amount of grit, talent and perseverance to consistently churn out match-defining performances in a tournament as big as IPL and one name that has become the epitome of these qualities is the Sunrisers Hyderabad pacer Siddharth Kaul who has been the fulcrum of Sunrisers’ success this season.

Kaul is not new to performing at the big stage. He was a part of Virat Kohli led India U-19 team that won the world cup in 2008. He recorded 10 wickets from five games in that tournament which was the joint highest wicket-tally for the Indian team along-side the vice-captain, Ravindra Jadeja. But his career couldn’t take as smooth a flight as his U-19 teammates Kohli and Jadeja, who both are now an established name at the national level as he had to endure a tough injury plagued five-year period from 2007 to 2012. The regular injuries in that phase even kept his domestic career in doldrums let alone harboring any hopes of a national seat.

The year 2013 served as a watershed year for the young Punjab pacer as he was able to regain his premium fitness and skill level which ultimately helped him in clinching the second spot on the bowling charts for the Ranji Trophy 2012-13. He ended the season with 44 wickets from just nine games which included two five-hauls. His brilliant Ranji performance earned him an IPL call-up from Delhi Daredevils for the 2013 season. He remained in the Delhi setup for two years i.e. 2013 and 2014 but failed to create much of an impact. His fairly good Ranji season in 2015-16 where he finished with 23 wickets from seven games reiterated his wicket-taking abilities and prompted Sunrisers setup to bid for him at the 2016 auctions.

He warmed the bench for the entire 2016 IPL season but succeeded to make the cut in the playing XI in the 2017 season which proved to be his breakthrough opportunity. He got a tally of 16 wickets from ten games and finished as the third highest wicket-taker for his team. It can be said that the 2017 IPL showed us only the half-picture of his brilliance as he had a more special show reserved for this year’s tournament. Sunrisers invested a heavy sum of INR 3.8 Cr. at the IPL 2018 auctions for the continuation of his services to the franchise and after ten games into the tournament, he has fully justified the faith of his team management with a tally of 13 wickets- joint highest for Sunrisers this season alongside Rashid Khan.

This IPL season has tested him in different possible roles and situations. He was tasked with leading the bowling attack in the absence of Bhuvneshwar Kumar, a job which he executed admirably when Sunrisers defended back-to-back three paltry totals of 118, 132 and 151. He was back in his supportive role once Bhuvneshwar was fit enough to resume his duties and brilliantly supported his team’s winning efforts against Delhi Daredevils (restricted them to 163) and Royal Challengers Bangalore (defended a total of 146).

The leadership of pace-bowling attack made him even more mature and responsible as he executed his skills with dead-point accuracy and put on a brilliant display of full repertoire of his vast skill-set which includes Yorkers, swinging deliveries, normal slower balls, knuckleballs, late tailing-in deliveries and a well-controlled short ball. He has thrived in different match situations in which he has been asked to bowl. Whether it's bowling in the power plays with the marginal comfort of only two fielders on the boundary line or controlling the momentum of opposition in the middle phase or executing a perfect death nail at the fag end of the innings, whenever Kane Williamson turned to him, he has delivered with utmost consistency.

His 13 wicket-tally coupled with a miserly economy rate of 7.05 indicate towards him being a complete bowling package. His great execution skills were exemplified by the penultimate over bowled by him against Bangalore where he conceded just seven runs to leave a good tally of 12 for Bhuvneshwar to defend and win the game in the last over. His reassuring presence in the bowling line-up along with Bhuvneshwar’s experience and Rashid Khan’s X-factor make Sunrisers the most potent and dangerous bowling line-up in the tournament.

Kaul’s perseverance and hard work paid off late last year when he was named in the India ODI squad for a three-match series against Sri Lanka at home but unfortunately, he couldn’t make it to the starting XI in that series. Despite not getting a chance then, his spirits remained high as he is aware of the competition that comes for a team India berth and is ready to put in those extra efforts to seal his spot in the playing XI for his country.

“I know I have to excel at every level to leave an impression. I’m up for that challenge and raring to make my debut soon. If it’s destined to happen it will happen. All I can say is, I have miles to go before I sleep,” said Kaul with sparkling eyes when asked about being unfortunate to miss out on the opportunity in the Sri Lanka ODIs.

His strong showing with the ball this IPL season has once again turned the tides in his favor as he has been named in the India ODI and T20I squads for the limited-overs leg of India’s tour of England. Hopefully, he makes a lasting impact this time and justifies the faith of selectors which will bode well for his future as well as for the Indian cricket.