At the age of 18, Rashid Khan was already creating waves in the cricketing world for three reasons. One, he is from Afghanistan. Two, he became only the second Afghan player, after former national skipper Mohammad Nabi, to be picked in the Indian Premier League. Three, he already has record hauls in ODIs and T20Is. (SRH vs GL highlights)
When he was snapped up in the IPL auction by holders Sunrisers Hyderabad for Rs 4 crore, his rise to international stardom was confirmed. After he was bought in the auction, Nabi said, “His googly is difficult to pick and he fires it on target.” (SRH vs GL Scorecard)
When Rashid was selected for the opening game against Royal Challengers Bangalore, the excitement only grew. His crowning moment came in his very first over when Mandeep Singh dragged a quicker delivery on to the stumps for 24. When Travis Head and Kedar Jadhav were stitching a 50-plus partnership, Sunrisers skipper David Warner turned to Rashid to break the dangerous stand. And he responded by removing Travis Head for 30. His figures of 4-0-36-2 on IPL debut gave a glimpse of what he could deliver.
Against Gujarat Lions, he produced a magnificent spell, confirming his credentials as one of the future stars of the game. Nabi’s words had indeed come true. On a Rajiv Gandhi stadium pitch that was good for batting, he picked up three top-order wickets. The notable thing was all three were trapped LBW, a testament to his accuracy and clever variations.
In his first over, he got the big wicket of Brendon McCullum for five runs with a googly that turned slightly. In his second over, he removed Aaron Finch for 3 with another googly that also didn’t turn much. Rashid bagged his third wicket in his third over, trapping Gujarat Lions skipper Suresh Raina (5) and a top player of spin with a leg break. In his final over, he troubled both Dwayne Smith and Dinesh Karthik, returning figures of 4-0-19-3.
In two matches, the 18-year-old has already picked five wickets, and he was awarded the purple cap for the IPL’s leading wicket-taker.
When he got the cap, Rashid said, “It’s difficult for the batsmen to pick my googlies. It’s a good track and if you bowl wicket-to-wicket here, it will be tough for the batsmen. Baz’s (Brendon McCullum) wicket was my favourite.”
Star at International level
Rashid’s performances in the 2017 Indian Premier League is a continuation of having bowled brilliantly in international cricket. In 26 ODIs, he has 53 wickets at an astonishing average of 16.69 while in 24 T20Is, he has 40 wickets at an average of 14.4.
In the 2016 World T20 in India, he first rose at the international stage by becoming the second-highest wicket-taker in the tournament with 11 from seven games. He has not looked back since. In the three-match Twenty20 series against Ireland, he grabbed nine wickets at a phenomenal average of 6.11.
The highlight of the series was his haul of 5/3. His figures were the best by an Afghanistan bowler in this format. In the ODI series, he had picked 6/43, the best figures by an Afghanistan bowler in ODIs.
Rashid, another X-Man in the IPL
Rashid joins the list of players who have provided the X-factor in the Indian Premier League. Mustafizur Rahman, the Bangladesh pacer who played a key role in Sunrisers Hyderabad’s win in the 2016 Indian Premier League, flummoxed the opposition with his cutters. Caribbean spinner Sunil Narine played a vital role for Kolkata Knight Riders with his variations in their 2014 title charge. Amit Mishra, India’s leg spinner, is the all-time leading wicket-taker among spinners in the IPL along with Piyush Chawla.
Rashid’s accuracy and his hard-to-decipher googly provide him the cutting edge so vital for this batsmen-dominated event. With the kind of start he has got, the Afghan sensation and Shahid Afridi fan has truly taken the tournament by storm.