Fixed rates for home loans are down and likely to fall further, experts say

SINGAPORE: Interest rates on home loans have been declining since the start of the year and observers expect the trend to continue.

Fixed-rate home loans – which have interest rates that remain unchanged throughout a lock-in period – shot up past 4 per cent last year in Singapore, as the US Federal Reserve went on a rate-hike race to quell surging inflation. 

With the Fed poised to pause or even reverse policy tightening, banks have been cutting their rates on these loans, industry experts said.

DBS, Singapore’s largest lender, is offering fixed-rate packages at 3.75 per cent a year with lock-in periods of two to five years, a check of its website on Tuesday (May 30) showed. 

This is 0.5 percentage points lower than the 4.25 per cent offered by the bank in January.

At OCBC, two- and three-year fixed-rate mortgages are priced at a “promotional” 3.8 per cent. These loans were previously set at 4.25 per cent and 3.9 per cent respectively in January.

The rate for the bank’s one-year loan remains unchanged at 4.3 per cent.

UOB did not provide its rates when approached by CNA, but property portals listed its two- and three-year loans at 4 per cent per annum, down from last year’s peak of 4.5 per cent.

Among foreign lenders, HSBC has lowered its two-year fixed-rate mortgage to 3.6 per cent, while the three-year equivalent is set at 3.5 per cent.

Both packages were previously offered at 4.25 per cent in January.

Mortgage advisory firm Mortgage Master said loan rates are going as low as 3.38 per cent, although it declined to say which bank was offering the rate, citing privileged information.

“With inflation and employment data in the US softening, the US Federal Reserve has indicated a less hawkish stance,” said Mr Paul Wee, vice-president of PropertyGuru’s finance division. “Hence, it is likely that fixed rates will soften further.”


Fixed-rate mortgages tend to see bigger adjustments as banks weigh their hedging costs, experts said.

Hedging costs depend on market expectations for interest rates, with the cost going up as rates rise and vice versa, said Mr Wee.

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Japan’s fusion start-ups starting to roll in money

TOKYO – Kyoto Fusioneering is raising big new money from domestic venture capital funds, banks and energy, engineering and trading companies, the latest indication that nuclear fusion energy ventures are becoming increasingly investible in Japan.

On May 17, Kyoto Fusioneering announced its 10.5 billion yen (US$75 million) Series C funding round had been oversubscribed, marking a repeat of its Series B fund-raising in February 2022.

The nation’s most prominent nuclear fusion technology developer has now raised 12.2 billion yen ($87 million) since it was spun out of Kyoto University in October 2019.

Kyoto Fusioneering’s management says it plans to use the new capital to hire more engineers, accelerate the development of fusion reactor materials and key components, develop its power plant engineering capability and continue its expansion in the UK and US.

Even before the new capital infusion, the company has already benefitted from the expertise of its corporate investors and the development of new technologies that could give it an early edge in what is expected to become a very large and highly competitive global fusion market.

INPEX, Japan’s largest oil and gas exploration and production company, said it invested in Kyoto Fusioneering because it was “the first initiative deemed to have commercial potential” under the INPEX Challenge Program, an in-house venture capital scheme established in 2021.

Read: “Japan boldly igniting a national fusion revolution

“Through this investment, INPEX will explore the possibilities of supplying fusion energy by supporting Kyoto Fusioneering’s technological and operational development, while utilizing the knowledge cultivated through its own energy development business.”

In a transition away from fossil fuels, INPEX is conducting R&D in carbon capture, storage and recycling, hydrogen and ammonia, wind and geothermal energy, and now nuclear fusion.

The company’s ownership structure reflects the close nexus between corporate and official Japan. INPEX is 21.2%-owned by Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) and 4.1%-owned by Japan Petroleum Exploration (JAPEX), which in turn is 34.9%-owned by METI and 5.1% by INPEX.

Helical Fusion, another local start-up that aims to build a commercial helical fusion reactor, has reportedly raised capital from telecom carrier KDDI’s Green Partners Fund, the Nikon-SBI Innovation Fund and SBI Investment, which is also aiming to build a helical fusion reactor.

Funds raised in April this year and November last year will be used by Helical Fusion to fund its ongoing development of a helical fusion reactor, superconducting magnets and other related technologies.

Helical reactors are spiral-shaped and are a type of stellarator that confines plasma using magnetic fields. The technology is regarded as particularly well-suited for commercial reactors due to its stable operation.

Helical Fusion is pursuing a helical-type fusion reactor. Image: Japan National Institute for Fusion

Headquartered in Tokyo, Helical Fusion was founded in 2021 with technology developed by Japan’s National Institute for Fusion Science. It has so far received about $6 million in seed funding from Japanese venture capital and corporate investors.

Helical Fusion’s R&D is led by co-CEO Junichi Miyazawa, a nuclear physicist from the Graduate School of Engineering at Nagoya University; Board Member Takaya Goto, a specialist in fusion reactor system design and professor at the National Institute for Fusion Science; and science advisor Akio Sagara, a nuclear engineer and professor emeritus at Japan’s National Institute for Fusion Science.

EX-Fusion, yet another fusion start-up founded in 2021 and headquartered in Osaka, is venturing to commercialize laser-based nuclear fusion. It reports raising 261 million yen ($1.9 million) in 2022 from a Tokyo-based venture capital firm and Osaka University Venture Capital.

The company was founded by Shinsuke Fujioka from Osaka University’s Institute of Laser Engineering; Kazuki Matsuo, a specialist in laser fusion and high energy density plasma from Osaka University’s Graduate School of Science; and Yoshitaka Mori, associate professor at the Graduate School for the Creation of New Photonics Industries (GSCNPI) in the Japanese city of Hamamatsu.

Via GSCNPI, EX-Fusion has introduced laser technology from Hamamatsu Photonics, a locally-based company that currently makes the world’s most powerful semiconductor lasers. Hamamatsu Photonics is working to develop a pulsed laser with the energy and repetition rate required for nuclear fusion.

In April, METI Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura visited GSCNPI, EX-Fusion’s R&D facility housed there and Hamamatsu Photonics, which was the driving force behind the school’s creation.

EX-Fusion has also joined the Institute of Laser Engineering, the University of Adelaide, Australian laser fusion company HB11 and other companies in a high-intensity laser project in Australia.

A laser fusion experiment. Photo: US Department of Energy

Underscoring the increasing investability of Japanese nuclear fusion ventures, Kyoto Fusioneering’s Series C funding attracted a wide and deep range of Japanese investors, including:

  • JIC Venture Growth Investments Co, Ltd
  • Coral Capital
  • DBJ Capital Co, Ltd (Development Bank of Japan)
  • Electric Power Development Co, Ltd(J-POWER)
  • INPEX Corporation
  • JAFCO Group Co, Ltd
  • Japan Co-Invest IV Limited Partnership
  • Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Investment Co Ltd
  • JGC MIRAI Innovation Fund / General Partner Global Brain Corporation
  • K4 Ventures GK(Kansai Electric Power Group)
  • Mitsubishi Corporation
  • Mitsubishi UFJ Capital Co, Ltd
  • Mitsui & Co, Ltd.
  • MOL PLUS Co Ltd
  • MUFG Bank, Ltd
  • SMBC Venture Capital

Among them, JGC is Japan’s top plant engineering, procurement and construction company. Mitsubishi Corporation is its largest general trading company. MOL PLUS is the corporate venture capital fund of shipping company Mitsui OSK Lines.

For more detail on the origin, technology and business activities of Kyoto Fusioneering, see my February 2022 article in Asia Times.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @ScottFo83517667

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Trust Bank attracts more than S$1 billion in deposits, aims for breakeven by 2025

The digital bank is 60 per cent owned by Standard Chartered and 40 per cent by NTUC’s enterprise arm. It holds a full bank licence, which means it is able to offer services similar to those of conventional banks such as having physical ATMs.

Its competitors include GXS Bank, which is backed by Grab and Singtel GXS Bank, and MariBank which is owned by tech giant Sea.

Both GXS and MariBank hold “digital full bank” licences which permit the offering of online-only banking services to retail and corporate customers. These retail digital banks are also subject to a cap of S$50 million in deposits during the entry phase.

Trust Bank said it is confident that its growth rate can be sustained despite market competition and lingering economic uncertainties.

For one, the depth of NTUC’s membership programme of more than 2.4 million customers presents opportunities for growth.

The digital bank’s proposition is also “not based on one-time offers or a high acquisition gift or a promotional interest rate”, said Mr Sadhu.

Its positioning on daily savings which help with the cost of living, such as earning rebates and reward points at FairPrice supermarkets and other partner merchants, will remain “relevant and highly sustainable” in an uncertain macroeconomic environment, the CEO told CNA.

Beyond that, Trust Bank is hoping to get more customers on board through its offerings, which currently include deposit accounts, digital credit cards and family personal accident insurance.

With travel back in demand as borders reopen, the lender announced on Monday the launch of its travel insurance product underwritten by Income.

Mr Sadhu said Trust Bank also tries to solve existing customer pain points with its fully digital service. This includes allowing customers to have digital supplementary cards to share their credit cards in real-time, set spending limits and track expenses.

Moving forward, the digital bank intends to introduce instant loan products, enable GIRO payment services and other in-app self-services, as well as expand its insurance offerings.

“The continued growth of clients and the new products that we are introducing gives us a very solid footing for meeting both (the goals to be the) fourth largest bank by next year, as well as be profitable by 2025,” Mr Sadhu said.

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Why Australia decided to quit its vaping habit

Young people vapingAleksandrYu

“The horse has bolted now, they are addicted,” says Chris, a high school teacher in New South Wales.

He’s talking about students in his class, teenagers, who can’t stop vaping.

He sees the effect of the candy-flavoured, nicotine-packed e-cigarettes on young minds every day, with children even vaping in class.

“The ones who are deepest into it will just get up out of their seat, or they’ll be fidgeting or nervous. The worst offenders will just walk out because they’re literally in withdrawal.”

Those who are most addicted need nicotine patches or rehabilitation, he says, talking about 13 and 14-year-olds.

Earlier this month the government decided enough is enough and introduced a range of new restrictions. Despite vapes already being illegal for many, under new legislation they will become available by prescription only.

The number of vaping teenagers in Australia has soared in recent years and authorities say it is the “number one behavioural issue” in schools across the country.

And they blame disposable vapes – which some experts say could be more addictive than heroin and cocaine – but for now are available in Australia in every convenience store, next to the chocolate bars at the counter.

For concerned teachers like Chris, their hands have been tied.

“If we suspect they have a vape, all we can really do is tell them to go to the principal’s office.

“At my old school, my head teacher told me he wanted to install vape detector alarms in the toilet, but apparently we weren’t allowed to because that would be an invasion of privacy.”

E-cigarettes have been sold as a safer alternative to tobacco, as they do not produce tar – the primary cause of lung cancer.

Some countries continue to promote them with public health initiatives to help cigarette smokers switch to a less deadly habit.

Last month, the UK government announced plans to hand out free vaping starter kits to one million smokers in England to get smoking rates below 5% by 2030.

But Australia’s government says that evidence that e-cigarettes help smokers quit is insufficient for now. Instead, research shows it may push young vapers into taking up smoking later in life.

‘Generation Vape’

Vapes, or e-cigarettes, are lithium battery-powered devices that have cartridges filled with liquids containing nicotine, artificial flavourings, and other chemicals.

The liquid is heated and turned into a vapour and inhaled into the user’s lungs.

Vaping took off from the mid-2000s and there were some 81 million vapers worldwide in 2021, according to the Global State of Tobacco Harm Reduction group.

Fuelling the rise is the mushrooming popularity of flavoured vapes designed to appeal to the young.

These products can contain far higher volumes of nicotine than regular cigarettes, while some devices sold as ‘nicotine-free’ can actually hold large amounts.

The chemical cocktail also contains formaldehyde, and acetaldehyde – which have been linked to lung disease, heart disease, and cancer.

There’s also a suggestion of an increased risk of stroke, respiratory infection, and impaired lung function.

Experts warn not enough is known about the long-term health effects. But some alarming data has already been drawn out.

A close up of a woman vaping

Getty Images

In 2020, US health authorities identified more than 2,800 cases of e-cigarette or vaping-related lung injury. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found 68 deaths attributed to that injury.

In Australia, a major study by leading charity The Cancer Council found more than half of all children who had ever vaped had used an e-cigarette they knew contained nicotine and thought that vaping was a socially acceptable behaviour.

School-age children were being supplied with e-cigarettes through friends or “dealers” inside and outside school, or from convenience stores and tobacconists, the report said.

Teens also reported purchasing vapes through social media, websites and at pop-up vape stores, the Generation Vape project found.

“Whichever way teenagers obtain e-cigarettes, they are all illegal, yet it’s happening under the noses of federal and state authorities”, report author and Cancer Council chair Anita Dessaix said.

“All Australian governments say they’re committed to ensuring e-cigarettes are only accessed by smokers with a prescription trying to quit – yet a crisis in youth e-cigarette use is unfolding in plain view.”

In addition to the government’s move to ban the import of all non-pharmaceutical vaping products – meaning they can now only be bought with a prescription – all single-use disposable vapes will be made illegal.

The volume and concentration of nicotine in e-cigarettes will also be restricted, and both flavours and packaging must be plain and carrying warning labels.

But these new measures are not actually all that drastic, says public health physician Professor Emily Banks from the Australian National University.

“Australia is not an outlier. It is unique to have a prescription-only model, but other places actually ban them completely, and that includes almost all of Latin America, India, Thailand and Japan.”

‘We have been duped’

Health Minister Mark Butler said the new vaping regulations will close the “biggest loophole in Australian healthcare history”.

“Just like they did with smoking… ‘Big Tobacco’ has taken another addictive product, wrapped it in shiny packaging and added sweet flavours to create a new generation of nicotine addicts.”

“We have been duped”, he said.

Medical experts agree. Prof Banks argues that the promotion of e-cigarettes as a “healthier” alternative was a classic “sleight-of-hand” from the tobacco industry.

As such vaping has become “normalised” in Australia, and in the UK too.

“There’s over 17,000 flavours, and the majority of use is not for smoking cessation”, she tells the BBC.

“They’re being heavily marketed towards children and adolescents. People who are smoking and using e-cigarettes – that’s the most common pattern of use, dual use.”

Professor Banks says authorities need to “de-normalise” vaping among teenagers and make vapes much harder to get hold of.

“Kids are interpreting the fact that they can very easily get hold of [vapes] as evidence [they’re safe], and they’re actually saying, ‘well, if they were that unsafe, I wouldn’t be able to buy one at the coffee shop’.

But could stricter controls make it harder for people who do turn to vapes hoping to quit or cut down on tobacco?

“It is important to bear in mind that for some people, e-cigarettes have really helped. But we shouldn’t say ‘this is great for smokers to quit’, says Prof Banks.

“We know from Australia, from the US, from Europe, that two-thirds to three-quarters of people who quit smoking successfully, do so unaided.”

“You’re trying to bring these [vapes] in saying they’re a great way to quit smoking, but actually we’ve got bubble gum flavoured vapes being used by 13-year-olds in the school toilets. That is not what the community signed up for.”

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New parliament: PM Modi set to inaugurate building amid Opposition boycott

Political rowGovernment of India

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is set to inaugurate India’s new parliament building despite a boycott of the ceremony by 19 opposition parties.

The opposition has criticised the government for not asking the president to open the new building.

They also denounced the decision to hold the event on the birth anniversary of Hindutva ideologue VD Savarkar.

The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has called the boycott a “disrespect of democracy”.

The new parliament building is part of the government’s ambitious project to develop the Central Vista power corridor in capital Delhi.

On Sunday, as the new building is inaugurated, Mr Modi will also unveil a new 75-rupee coin to commemorate the event and serve as a tribute to 75 years of India’s independence.

Built in front of the colonial-era parliament, the new four-storey building – built at an estimated cost of 9.7bn rupees ($117.1m, £94.2m) – has increased seating capacity.

The Lok Sabha chamber, which will seat the lower house of the parliament, is designed in the likeness of a peacock, India’s national bird. The Rajya Sabha chamber, which will seat the lower house, is designed resemble the lotus, India’s national flower.

A look at the construction map

Government of India

On Wednesday, 19 parties – including the main opposition Congress – announced their “collective decision” to boycott the inauguration ceremony.

Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge and party leader Rahul Gandhi said that the building should have been inaugurated by President Draupadi Murmu, the parliament’s highest constitutional authority.

Congress MP Jairam Ramesh also criticised the government’s decision to hold the event “on the birth anniversary of the man [Savarkar] who opposed Mahatma Gandhi vehemently all his life”.

Political row

Government of India

Commentators say the row reflects a fractious milieu where the ruling party and the opposition are unable to reach an agreement on most issues.

“Both sides need to find a way out of the separate corners they have backed themselves into. They must do so because history will not forgive them if they won’t,” The Indian Express newspaper argued in an editorial. “They must do so, for the sake of the people, and for the people’s parliament.”

As the new parliament is inaugurated, it will also witness protests by India’s top wrestlers outside the building.

The wrestlers, including Olympic medallists, have been on a months-long protest at Jantar Mantar, a heritage site in the capital Delhi, demanding the resignation and arrest of their wrestling federation president, Brij Bhushan Singh

Singh, an influential lawmaker and politician from BJP, is accused of sexual abuse and harassment of female wrestlers – allegations he denies.

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Volatility expected as debt ceiling negotiations intensify

Meet the GPM team

Investment strategy: How to trade the 14th Amendment?

David Woo writes that markets have largely disregarded the debt ceiling negotiation as a major risk due to the growth of passive investing and a lack of urgency from negotiators. However, concerns are rising over whether the positive talk is a mere show, and there is speculation that President Biden may invoke the 14th amendment if a deal cannot be reached.

Global Uncertainty Index Remains at Zero Line

David Goldman assesses how declining foreign deposits at US banks, signalling a global squeeze on dollar credit, could potentially lead to increased volatility and a shift towards alternative currencies in international trade, further impacting America’s economic position.

Russians strategize offensive options after the fall of Bakhmut

James Davis details how the war in Ukraine has entered a phase of increased uncertainty as neither side has a defined strategy. Both sides are regrouping after the Wagner group’s capture of Bakhmut, where Ukrainian troops suffered significant losses in morale and resources, with Russia now considering various offensive options.

China declares Micron a cyber threat while the long-term outlook favors Korean chipmakers

Scott Foster delves into China’s move to ban the use of Micron’s memory chips due to concerns over national security, which is seen as retaliation against US sanctions and is expected to lead to tougher sanctions on the Chinese semiconductor industry, favoring Korean competitors like Samsung and SK Hynix.

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IPL 2023: Who are India's next cricketing stars?

Rinku Singh plays a shot during a match between Lucknow Super Giants and Kolkata Knight Riders on May 20, 2023Getty Images

The Indian Premier League (IPL), apart from being lucrative, has been an excellent platform for uncapped players to fast-track their careers into the international arena. Like past editions, this year too uncapped players have dazzled in the IPL, putting forward their case for a selection in Team India. Sports writer Sattwik Biswal takes a look at five such promising players.

Rinku Singh

Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) finished seventh in IPL 2023 but their campaign was all about Rinku Singh. Each time he walked out to the crease, his team and fans expected him to finish games. He he delivered that in some close run chases.

One such memorable game was against the Gujarat Titans. Leg spinner Rashid Khan had dented Kolkata’s run-chase with a hat-trick. A win from that position looked far-fetched. But Singh had other plans.

When Kolkata needed 29 from the last over off Yash Dayal, a single off the first ball got Singh back on strike. The left-handed batter then hit five consecutive sixes to pull off a stunning win for Kolkata.

The KKR made the right call by retaining him for 5.5m rupees ($66, 521; £53,709 ) this season, however, his stocks are bound to rise when the next auction comes around.

In IPL 2022, Singh scored 174 runs from seven matches at an average of 34.8 and his strike-rate was 148.71.

This season, he played every match at the group stage and scored 474 runs at an average of 59.25 with a strike-rate of nearly 150.

He cut his teeth in domestic cricket by playing some 100 matches for Uttar Pradesh. With his stupendous show this season, Singh has definitely made a statement and his claim for a spot in the national side looks promising.

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Tilak Varma

Mumbai Indians' Tilak Varma watches the ball after playing a shot during the IPL match between Royal Challengers Bangalore and Mumbai Indians on April 2

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The batting exploits of Tilak Varma this IPL have forced people to take note of his talent.

His reading of the situation and ability to take off from the word go has given solidity to Mumbai Indians’ (MI) middle-order.

Despite missing out on the second half of Mumbai’s campaign due an injury, Varma scored 274 runs from nine matches at an average of 45.67 and a strike-rate of 158.38.

Bought by the MI for 17m rupees, the left-handed batter, who plays for Hyderabad in domestic cricket, is a strong contender for an India call up.

“I would be very surprised if he does not play T20 cricket for India in the next six to eight months,” former player and India coach Ravi Shastri told Star Sports.

“He’s got the maturity, he’s got the flair. He will make a world of difference to the Indian middle-order,” Shastri said.

His Mumbai Indians captain Rohit Sharma also praised the 20-year-old’s fearless cricket. “What I like about his game is his approach, he is not afraid,” Sharma said.

“He is not playing the bowler, he is playing the ball, which is quite important for someone of his age coming out and playing the way he is,” he said.

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Yashasvi Jaiswal

Yashasvi Jaiswal moved from Uttar Pradesh to Mumbai at the age of 12 to play cricket. He slept in tents and sold the street snacks to earn money. He started playing at the famous Azad Maidan, a sports ground in the city that often packed with children playing cricket.

His journey to the top began when he was spotted by a local coach at the grounds.

Yashasvi Jaiswal celebrates after winning the IPL match between Kolkata Knight Riders and Rajasthan Royals on May 11

Getty Images

This year, the 21-year-old southpaw has taken this IPL by storm as an opening batsman for the Rajasthan Royals. The team failed to make the playoffs but Jaiswal finished with 625 runs from 14 matches, an average of 48.08 and a strike-rate of 163.61. He struck five 50s and one 100.

Jaiswal now holds the record for most runs by an uncapped player in an IPL season. He’s also hit the fastest half-century in IPL history off 13 balls.

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Jitesh Sharma

Jitesh Sharma, the wicketkeeper-batsman of Punjab Kings, had an impressive season in 2022. He played 12 matches for the team, scored 234 runs at an average of 29.25 and a strike-rate of 163.63.

This year, Sharma created excitement with his batting ability while playing down the order. He finished IPL 2023 as the third-highest run-scorer (309 runs) for his team, while playing some crucial knocks.

Jitesh Sharma plays a shot during the IPL match between Punjab Kings and Royal Challengers Bangalore in Mohali on April 20

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Before the IPL, Sharma was part of India’s T20 side but didn’t get a chance to make his debut in the playing eleven.

His consistency and fearless batting has made former cricketers back his inclusion in the Indian team.

Having played more than 60 first-class matches in domestic cricket, the 29-year-old is the only player from the Vidarbha team to score a century in Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, India’s domestic T20 cricket championship.

He has the right credentials for a national call-up.

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Tushar Deshpande

Tushar Deshpande bowls during the IPL Qualifier match between Gujarat Titans and Chennai Super Kings on May 23 in Chennai

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The right-arm seamer has come a long way after last year’s IPL where he got to play only two matches for Chennai Super Kings. This edition, Tushar Deshpande formed an effective combo with Sri Lankan bowler Matheesha Pathirana. Having played all games for the CSK this season, Deshpande has flourished under the astute captaincy of MS Dhoni.

As a bowler he doesn’t come across as intimidating or has express pace, but he sticks to his ability and plan. Deshpande didn’t have a great start in first few matches – erring in his line and length. But backed by the team management and Dhoni, he bounced back to become CSK’s highest wicket-taker.

The 28-year-old is among the top-five wicket-takers in IPL 2023. With the experience of playing domestic cricket and for the Indian team, Deshpande could be an ideal option for the World Cup a few months away.

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