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IPL 2017 T20: How young Afghan spinner Rashid Khan is tying up batsmen

Afghanistan’s teenaged leggie, Rashid Khan, has been an instant hit in 2017 Indian Premier League (IPL), and these are the factors that have made him a potent threat to batsmen in the slam-bang format.

sports Updated: Apr 13, 2017 22:31 IST
Siddhartha Sharma
Sunrisers Hyderabad cricketer Rashid Khan celebrates a wicket during
Sunrisers Hyderabad cricketer Rashid Khan celebrates a wicket during(AFP)

In the IPL auction in February, Sunrisers Hyderabad surprised everyone by buying unfancied Afghanistan spinners Rashid Khan and Mohammad Nabi. (FULL IPL 2017 COVERAGE)

While the senior Nabi went for his base price of Rs. 30 lakh, the teenager Rashid, who had a base price of Rs 50 lakh, was purchased for a princely sum of Rs. 4 crore.

About 10 days into IPL 2017, the defending champions aren’t complaining as leg-spinner Rashid has become Hyderabad’s bowling trump card, much like Bangladesh left-arm pacemen, Mustafizur Rahman was in the last season.

Catapult action

With a bowling action resembling a catapult used in old war movies, Rashid has cashed in and joined the list of mystery spinners who have made an impact in the IPL.

In three matches so far, Rashid has taken six wickets, conceding just 74 runs in 12 overs at an economy of 6.16. Though his best came against Gujarat Lions (3/19), Royal Challengers Bangalore were at the receiving end in the opening game.

The subtle googly

RCB opener Mandeep Singh failed to read a quicker googly and played on while a set Travis Head slogged against turn to be dismissed for 30. Against Lions, all his victims (Brendon McCullum, Aaron Finch and Suresh Raina) fell leg before, which revealed that his art lies in the quickness of his deliveries.

On Wednesday, he trapped another big fish in Mumbai Indians skipper Rohit Sharma, conceding just 19 runs in his spell, though Sunrisers lost after the batting failed.

Speed allied to spin

So, why is Rashid proving a tricky customer even for seasoned campaigners? First, his bowling action is very unlike a leg-spinner. Those in the Shane Warne and Amit Mishra mould deliver with the arm coming slightly wide of the ear, but Rashid bowls very high-arm.

If one were to depict his delivery angle on a clock, it would be 12.05. Since he is so high arm, he needs to be quicker through the air to land the ball in the right areas. If he reduced the speed, it would either land too full or too short and might come really slow off the wicket.

So it is Rashid’s speed, varying between 88 kph to 95kph that gives the bowler control to land his deliveries perfectly.

Failing to spot variations

The dismissals of Mandeep, Raina, Finch and Rohit show they failed to decipher his bowling due to the pace. Australia chinaman bowler Brad Hogg, who was formerly with KKR, agreed. “He is too quick through the air. It is very difficult to pick his googly because there is less time for the batsmen to decipher and decide how to play,” Hogg said on ESPNcricinfo.

More importantly, Rashid bowls with a scrambled seam. There is a reason behind it. It helps disguise his stock delivery as well as the googly. If he bowled on the seam, he might not be able to control the drift due to his high-arm action. His googly becomes dangerous because he bowls his leg-spinners from the same angle as the wrong ‘un. Batsmen who pick the delivery from the hand may succeed in playing it but those who try to pick him in flight will be in trouble. The speed and revolutions on the ball make it harder.

Rashid vs Tahir

In a way, Rashid is a mirror image of Imran Tahir. Both have a quick run-up and deliver at high pace. They also have a high-arm action and bowl with a scrambled seam to disguise their variations. Unlike Mishra, who uses different angles in the crease to bowl googlies, back-spins and flippers, Rashid rarely changes his path.

The Afghan leggie also boasts of a healthy international record. His has 53 ODI wickets at 16.69 and 40 wickets at 13.82 in 24 T20Is. Tahir too has a staggering average of 13.70 in T20Is and 23.65 in ODIs. While Tahir was expensive early on in his ODI career, he made subtle changes to his bowling to be effective for the Proteas.

Staying fresh

For Rashid, it has been a dream run so far. He faced England, West Indies, Sri Lanka and South Africa during the 2016 World T20. He was economical against England, Sri Lanka and West Indies on a slow Nagpur track, but conceded 51 against the Proteas in Mumbai.

Rashid may not always have it have it his way. Change is a constant, and to be effective on all types of pitches, he will need to be inventive. In a T20 game, batsmen are in a hurry to score quickly. Rashid struggled in the opening game but his two deliveries that landed on the spot saved his day. Against Mumbai, he often landed short and bowled full tosses but was economical due to his mystery factor.

Once that unknown factor melts away, Rashid will have to take the next big step in his learning process to stay effective. For now, the teenager can bask in the adulation.