Mohammad Nabi pumped his fists in celebration, yelling out a cry from his seat in the Sunrisers Hyderabad dugout. It was for Afghanistan cricket.
Selected in the Indian Premier League for the first time, the pressure is on Nabi and Rashid Khan to prove that they belong to the big league and are worth the money spent on them by Sunrisers - the 18-year-old leg-spinner has a Rs 4 crore tag to justify.
“We are here to prove that there is talent in Afghanistan. Rashid’s performance was important. It is a good start,” Nabi told HT.
Rashid was the toast of the Afghanistan cricket fraternity on Wednesday when he picked two big wickets to derail the Royal Challengers Bangalore chase. He first got Mandeep Singh and then outfoxed Travis Head.
Senior pro Nabi revealed that the leg-spinner was informed on the match-day he was playing, and naturally, he was battling nerves. “He (was) already under pressure; everything is new and he has been picked for a big price,” admitted Nabi, who has established himself as Afghanistan’s top all-rounder.
The two had heard of stories of what IPL was like but Nabi said nothing prepared them for the reality which they experienced at the Hyderabad Stadium on Wednesday. On IPL’s opening night of the 10th edition, the stadium was packed to the rafters; the world’s biggest names, including Sachin Tendulkar, were watching in the stands.
In the opposite dressing room was Virat Kohli and they were sharing the dressing room with David Warner and Yuvraj Singh.
To add to it, it was a belter if a wicket. Rashid had no room for error.
“He was nervous, the stadium was packed and there were such big names around, also the wicket was flat. I told him if he errs on this wicket ‘bahut maar padegi’. ‘Just bowl with a big heart’,” said Nabi. “He will build on this start.”
Analysing Wednesday’s effort, Nabi said Rashid was not his usual self. “He was rushing it up, ending up bowling too full or pitching it short. Wait till he starts bowling with confidence, then we will see the real Rashid.”
On the other hand, now the teams will earmark him as the dangerman and go about analysing him. But, Nabi is confident: “No amount of study will help the batsmen. His hand comes down very fast, the teams will be watching on slow motion. By the time they map his action, the IPL will be over.”