T20 king Rashid will hope to master ODIs too | Crickit
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T20 king Rashid will hope to master ODIs too

By, New Delhi
Oct 10, 2023 08:22 PM IST

The Afghan leg-spinner has all the tools to trouble batters in one-dayers too but he just hasn't played enough against the top sides.

For a moment, visualise Rashid Khan bowling four overs in a T20 game. What you will see is a bowler that's a constant wicket-taking threat with his bag of mystery and mastery over line and length. He is hard to get away, unusual for leg-spinners who tend to spray the rank bad ball in every over.

Rashid Khan bowls during the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup 2023 match between Bangladesh and Afghanistan(PTI)
Rashid Khan bowls during the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup 2023 match between Bangladesh and Afghanistan(PTI)

It has helped Rashid become ubiquitous in T20 leagues around the world, finding the same success on the hard and bouncy surfaces of Australia as on the slow and spin-friendly surfaces of the subcontinent. Season after season, Rashid turns up and opponents are expected to get a grip of Rashid’s repertoire and find a way of taming him. But it hasn’t happened yet.

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For evidence, look at the 25-year-old's numbers for Gujarat Titans in the Indian Premier League (IPL) this season. He was more expensive than usual with an economy rate of 8.24 but he also took more wickets (27) than in previous editions.

But what about Rashid the one-day bowler? If an immediate highlight from his ODI career doesn’t spring to mind, it’s because his appearances in 50-over cricket are fairly limited against the top teams. The overall record may not convey that impression considering he has taken 172 wickets in 95 ODIs at an economy of 4.22. But a closer scrutiny of who these matches have come against paints a more accurate picture of his one-day career.

Out of his 95 matches, 60 have come against Ireland, Zimbabwe and Bangladesh. In turn, 121 of his scalps are in these games, against batters who don’t provide the sternest challenge for a bowler of Rashid’s calibre.

He has taken three wickets in two games against India. One wicket in an appearance against Australia. Seven in five against Pakistan. His harshest experience, the kind that can leave mental scars, was against England, conceding 110 runs in nine wicketless overs at the 2019 World Cup.

In his defence, he may say that the sample size against the top teams is small. His distinguished T20 record certainly suggests he has all the tools to trouble the best players in one-day cricket as well.

Which brings us to the game against India on Wednesday. He will be up against batters he’s familiar with, and at a venue that he has played plenty of games in. If there was ever an opportunity to bask in the spotlight and quash whatever doubt there may be about his credentials in the 50-over format, this is perhaps it.

Afghanistan captain Hashmatullah Shahidi reposed faith in Rashid’s plans. “See, Rashid is the best bowler in ODI and T20s, so whatever opposition is doing, we don't care about that, like how they play or want to play Rashid. For us, the important thing is how he has planned against the opposition. So that matters for us,” he told reporters on match eve.

Ask Shahidi about Rashid’s record against top teams, and he remains bullish about his ace spinner’s world class status.

“See, right now he has been playing a lot in ODIs. So, he knows how to bowl against every team. He has the quality and whenever it's his day, he can do anything against the opposition, so we are expecting and we are hopeful that he delivers in tomorrow's game,” he added.

There’s arguably a better support system for Rashid now. Off-spinner Mohammad Nabi and mystery spinner Mujeeb Ur Rahman were around at the 2019 World Cup too, but they should be wiser to the challenges of the highest level. The emergence of 18-year-old left-arm wrist spinner Noor Ahmad – whose bowling action is almost a mirror image of Rashid's -- is also significant.

This year’s IPL is a case in point. With Ahmad posing as much of a threat – he claimed 16 scalps in 13 matches -- for Gujarat Titans, teams had to take their share of risks against Rashid too. With it came a greater number of wickets in Rashid’s account.

Ahmad didn’t play their opening game against Bangladesh though. A way to accommodate Noor would be to push Rashid up to No. 7 – he’s equipped to unleash the big hits – and have Noor as part of a spin-heavy attack. But again, the small boundaries at the Ferozeshah Kotla ground and the run fest in the first game between South Africa and Sri Lanka here will have to be considered.

Regardless of the combination they choose, they will want their talisman to step up and have a game to remember.

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